Volume 20 Issue 12 | August 3 - 9, 2007


9/11 ceremony realities

The recent demand by the leaders of some family groups to stage this year’s 9/11 ceremonies in the middle of an enormous construction zone is misplaced and misguided.

A huge chunk of the construction taking place at ground zero is to build the world’s most expensive memorial to remember the loved ones of these family members. The only way to continue to have 9/11 ceremonies year after year at the Twin Towers’ footprints is to stop building the memorial and leave the hole in the ground.

It’s hard for us to imagine that most family members would demand to go to bedrock this year if they knew how much construction activity was there. We believe most are reasonable people learning how to live with their horrific loss. We admit we do not know what most family members think, but neither does anyone else, including the purported “family leaders.” The online petitions and polls reveal nothing and only distort the facts. For example, one poll suggests that the city and Port Authority areopposed to stopping the work even for one day, when the truth is work will undoubtedly be halted on Sept. 11. The issue is safety, not avoiding delay.

The Port is working on a way to provide family members some street-level access, but a procession at bedrock is not possible. The site grows increasingly dangerous for visitors. The same lawyers demanding full access would be the first to sue if any family member were injured during the ceremony.   

We know the emotional ties to the bedrock are real, but anyone in favor of building a fitting tribute to those lost should understand that it will be a few years before people can once again touch the ground where nearly 3,000 loved ones were killed.

Wise move at 50 West

Borough President Scott Stringer gave Downtown a better chance to get more affordable housing this week with the clear “no” he told the city and developer Francis Greenburger of Time Equities. Time wants to demolish the building at 50 West St. in order to build a 63-story luxury tower with condos and a hotel. Greenburger’s plan includes collecting lucrative tax subsidies on the 421-a program and buying 180,000 square feet of air rights from the city in order to build the most valuable condos on the top floors. Stringer said the public subsidies are unacceptable without a substantial commitment to affordable housing in Lower Manhattan.

We hope Stringer’s strong action will be enough to stiffen the resolve of City Councilmember Alan Gerson, whose district includes 50 West. Gerson also hopes to connect affordable housing to the project, but he has not made it a requirement. A stronger stand from Gerson will make it easier for Stringer and others to force the city and developer to include money for affordable housing.

A month ago, we criticized Community Board 1 for its nuanced “yes, but” resolution which approved the project conditioned on affordable housing and other improvements. Our fear was that the message would be missed and that fear was confirmed this week by a city official who told us “a conditional yes is a yes.”

Stringer took the correct “no, but” position and we hope Gerson and the rest of the Council build on Stringer’s action to obtain an appropriate and decent public benefit from the sale of these city assets. 

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