downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 27 | November 17 - 23, 2006

Editorial

No bus plan is no answer

Seasoned observers of World Trade Center redevelopment progress or lack thereof have learned long ago to take with a grain of salt talk of schedules and timetables. Delays have been one of the few certainties, and milestones end up getting reached whenever they get reached.

So maybe these observers aren’t too concerned that the Port Authority plans to finish building the World Trade Center memorial in 2009, at which time the thousands of tour buses driving to the memorial can begin idling for two years, when the Port plans to finish building an underground garage where they can park.

There is indeed reason to worry. It is true that no one knows that the memorial will be done in three years and the garage in five, but that’s the plan. And if anything, the two-year bus gap seems overly optimistic. The Port began building the memorial in the summer and the start date on its vehicle security center – let alone the completion date-- remains in doubt. The Port will have to wait for the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center to complete demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building before it can begin building the garage and security center. Yes Deutsche is the project that has been delayed for years and now a new, yet necessary, search for any remains of people killed on Sept. 11, 2001 still must be done.

Officials predict the memorial will attract as many as 7 million people a year and assume – quite reasonably – that the largest crowds will come the first two years when it is new. The garage is not a fringe detail to get to whenever it is convenient.

The garage question appeared to be settled years ago. People from the Port and the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation have so far downplayed the schedule problem suggesting there is still plenty of time to solve it. There is time, but if there is an easy solution, why would anyone keep it a secret?

Any solution which adds to the never-solved problem of buses clogging up Lower Manhattan’s residential streets is a non-starter.

The Port is holding a public hearing on its vehicle security plan Nov. 28 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers St. We encourage readers to read the Port’s environmental assessment at www.panynj.gov/pathrestoration, speak up at the hearing, and submit written comments before Dec. 28.

There must be a workable traffic and parking plan in place the first day the memorial opens. It does not have to be permanent and the other W.T.C. project schedules -- financed with billions of public dollars -- may have to be adjusted to make sure that happens. Leaving the memorial aside, here’s what we think the construction priorities should be in order: the train station, Performing Arts Center, large retail spaces, Tower 3 and Tower 2 (slated to get private firm tenants), Tower 4 (city and Port tenants), and lastly the Freedom Tower with one million square feet of government tenants. Things can’t be built in that order, but knowing what’s least important makes it easier to find the least painful sacrifices that may be needed to build a complete memorial (with parking), which is embraced by families, as well as by people from around the world and around the corner.

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