Volume 18 • Issue 26 | November 11 - 17, 2005

Rendering of the underground stores to the Port Authority’s World Trade Center PATH station designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Slow-moving path to W.T.C. retail

By Ronda Kaysen

Community Board 1 members weighed in on retail at the new PATH station planned for the World Trade Center, voicing concerns about the pace of the redevelopment, a desire for street level stores and anxiety that retail might ultimately be derailed by the same forces that unraveled the cultural center at the site.

Port Authority officials presented plans for retail at the new Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH station at a Nov. 7 World Trade Center Committee meeting. The PATH station retail—about 200,000 sq. ft.—will all be entirely below ground and comprise about a third of the retail for the redevelopment. The bulk of the shops will eventually be above ground, lining Church and Greenwich Sts., although a timetable for that portion is dependent upon buildings that have yet to be financed or designed. Even the Calatrava station retail will be a longtime coming. Port Authority officials don’t expect it to be finished until the station is complete in 2010.

In images displayed by the Port Authority, upscale boutiques and Starbucks coffee shops line the three subterranean levels of the white, birdlike station. Cheerful travelers and shoppers prance down plaza-like steps, carrying shopping bags or heading through PATH turnstiles. But board members quickly raised serious concerns about what role the community would play in the development of retail for the neighborhood and when they’d begin to see shopping return to the area.

“We are a very important constituent group and lately we have been silenced,” C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin told Port Authority representatives, adding, “We’d like to take a consulting role in this.”

The board recently voiced dismay that Governor George Pataki summarily removed the International Freedom Center, a museum planned for a new cultural center at the site, from the redevelopment before the community had the opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

The Port Authority took steps to reassure the board that the community would not be sidelined in this effort. “We would welcome some input from the Downtown community of what retail the community needs,” James Connors, director of the W.T.C. redevelopment for the Port Authority, told board members.

Menin worried that the same groups of victims’ family members that pressured the governor to remove the museum from the site would again overshadow the community’s voice and influence the type of retail Downtown. “I’m very concerned that some family members have suggested that there are certain types of retail that, in essence, should be censored,” said Menin.

Retail will not intersect the memorial quadrant, however censorship of retail is not a risk, according the Port Authority. “The people who talk about censorship are probably in the minority. At the end of the day it will not be censored,” said Connors.

Family members have been kept abreast of the Port Authority’s plans and some are urging caution when placing stores at the site, especially those facing the memorial.

“We bear a moral responsibility to have a say in what happens to that memorial quadrant and its environs,” Charles Wolf, a Bleecker St. resident whose wife died in the disaster, said in a telephone interview. Wolf was active in removing the Freedom Center from the site. “With the memorial quadrant, there needs to be—in my opinion—shall we say sensitivity shown.”

Wolf suggested limiting the signage at shops that face the memorial so visitors to the memorial will not be distracted by signs that might line Greenwich St. “I understand the need for a community to have shops. That has to be balanced out against the need from the standpoint of the individual victims,” he said. “If the families were to have their total say, there wouldn’t be anything on the 16 acres.”

Any retail at the site at all is a long way off. Residents won’t begin to see retail anywhere at the site until the beginning of the next decade and street level retail will probably take longer. For a community that lost its primary shopping center on Sept. 11, the thought of another five years without retail is worrisome.

“A whole generation of children down here are losing the Trade Center,” said board member Jeff Galloway whose children were in third and fifth grade on 9/11. “If you meet your schedule my daughter will be a sophomore in college and my son will be a senior in high school and possibly married by the time this is done. Is there anyway to speed this up?”



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