Volume 22, Number 25 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 30 - November 6, 2009
Photo by Joe Woolhead
The former Deutsche Bank building, across the street from the World Trade Center site.
Little progress on the W.T.C. art building
By Julie Menin
The lack of progress on the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site has been a source of great disappointment to me and the members of Community Board 1. We have recently commemorated the eighth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 but we still have not seen the real progress needed on this important project or received any specific information about when and how it will move forward.
The master plan for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan followed a lengthy public planning process that resulted in a clear consensus that the development of significant and varied cultural facilities is essential to the successful revitalization of the W.T.C. site and Lower Manhattan. The PAC was conceived as a calming transition between the bustle of commerce and the reflection and remembrance that will be inspired by the memorial and as the spark for the resurgence of arts in Lower Manhattan.
In the years since the master plan for the site was developed, the cultural component of the W.T.C. site has been significantly downsized. The Drawing Center, the Freedom Museum and the Signature Theater were all once included in plans for the site but have since been eliminated. The Frank Gehry-designed PAC, as the principal and now only remaining cultural facility planned for the W.T.C. site, remains a key element of the master plan and its realization is absolutely essential to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan.
It is imperative that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, City of New York, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and all other public and private agencies involved in the reconstruction of the W.T.C. site respect the very strong desire of the community to see the promised PAC built as it was intended in a timely manner. C.B. 1 has strongly urged that the design phase for the PAC be completed as soon as possible and made available for public review. We have further urged that the funding process for the PAC commence immediately so that there will be practical assurance that the PAC will be built.
At a recent City Council hearing, there was a glimmer of hope that we might finally see some progress. The engineering plan for the foundation of the PAC has been completed and is expected to go out for bidding next month so that it can be coordinated with the Port Authority work on that corner of the site. Based on information provided at the last meeting of the board of directors of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the P.A. will soon finalize the contracts for the footings and the foundation at the corner of the site where the PAC was originally slated to be built. This work is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010, and in order to take advantage of the PATH work outages it is important to have an engineering plan for the PAC now.
It is therefore imperative that we seize this brief period of opportunity during the coming months to begin the needed work on the below grade infrastructure to maintain the viability of the site. We have spoken with the city and asked them to attend the next meeting of Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee to present their plans and hear from our members about the urgent need to move this project forward at this critical juncture.
One need only look at the ways in which significant cultural components have helped to revitalize other cities to see its importance as the only community enhancement planned for the W.T.C. site. In Los Angeles, the Walt Disney Concert Hall has become a national cultural landmark, inspiring the commercial, retail, and cultural resurgence of the surrounding area. In Miami Beach, a public commitment to the arts and the South Florida Arts Center sparked cultural revitalization and a renovated Miami Beach Convention Center became the home of Art Basel, turning Miami and Miami Beach into an international cultural mecca. In San Francisco, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and community leaders had the vision to create the cutting edge Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which along with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other museums in the area, have transformed and revitalized the formerly moribund Yerba Buena downtown area between the city’s financial district and civic center neighborhoods.
During my tenure as chairperson of C.B. 1, we have advocated tirelessly for the PAC, testifying about its importance at numerous legislative hearings and in discussions with government officials. I strongly believe that the development of a world-class Performing Arts Center at the W.T.C. site is critical for the future of Lower Manhattan as a successful neighborhood and I will continue to do everything possible to bring about its completion.
Julie Menin is chairperson of Community Board 1 and is also a member of the boards of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.