Volume 16 • Issue 35 | January 30 - February 05, 2004

Letters to the Editor

Build two towers

To The Editor:
Since I have seen the new memorial and office building plans, I think and feel very strongly about our skyline (news articles, Jan. 16–22, 2004, “Reflecting on the W.T.C. memorial” and Dec. 23 –29, 2003, “Wind and light for W.T.C. tower”). I think that what is proposed is horrible. If they want to place a tower, I think there needs to be two towers and not the one tower. We are being hijacked into believing that these terrible plans are final. Where is Mayor Giuliani? He said he hated the current designs for the World Trade Center. Let’s all take a public vote on this. That is what is needed. Let the public speak out. If you are going to build anything, then, make sure there are twin towers standing and not just one.

Lawrence Jenzen

Train design soars

To The Editor:
Re “W.T.C. train station unveiled” (news article, Jan. 23 –29):

After the fractious, divisive, and seemingly never-ending controversy over the selection of a design for the World Trade Center redevelopment (Daniel Libeskind), and the memorial (Michael Arad), Santiago Calatrava achieved what most thought impossible: a stunning architectural design.

Mr. Calatrava was not bridled by political correctness and expediency, and not subject to juries and committees; he was chosen on a world-famous reputation and given free reign (subject to location, area, and dollars) to create.  All the prejudgments in regard to what must be included and excluded in the previous designs did not enter this equation.   We assumed the new transit hub would be on the scale of the pre-9/11 one: cold platforms, haggard commuters, musty air and all.  The more visceral matters of the World Trade Center redevelopment, and memorial, took all our attention.  We cared about the footprints, and what was above ground and in view — mass transit was mass transit.  As a result, Calatrava was allowed to work and create “off the radar screen.”  This minimum of outside interference gave him the ability to fully express his ideas.

The greatness of America has been her ability to reach for the stars — and achieve beyond them.  People coming to this country to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones, America has always benefited from a steady infusion of hope, aspirations, and dreams.  It is no small irony that a German in Daniel Libeskind, an Israeli in Michael Arad, and a Spaniard in Calatrava, have been chosen for this project of world import.  That being said, why have the designs of the two former designers failed to inspire, while the later succeeds? 

With all the aforementioned restrictions and conditions it appears we as a nation have lost the ability to dream those very dreams that made us great.  Politicians and civic leaders say the W.T.C. redevelopment design “...can’t please everyone” (though true, it appears that was not the end result of the process, but the attitude going in), and talk of the memorial, sadly, as “...better than expected.”   Since when has America settled for the safe and passé, and not the best we can draw from ourselves?

The metaphoric “winged bird” roof raises our eyes upward and to the sky, radiating the platform with light, and hope for a better day.

To Larry Silverstein’s credit he allowed David Childs to develop the building at 7 W.T.C. to the best his talent would allow, and allowed him to take the cumbersome Freedom Tower and transform it into the only building at the site that offers the promise of an architectural achievement.

Santiago Calatrava was allowed to dream to the limits of his ability and imagination. Libeskind and Arad are to be commended for their talent and efforts — they cannot be faulted for the limits placed on their talents by those afraid to dream.
John Brindisi

Keep Downtown affordable

To The Editor:
The topic of Elizabeth O’Brien’s article in the Jan. 23 issue of the Downtown Express should be on every planner and politician’s agenda in Lower Manhattan, as well as local community organizations (news article, Jan. 23 – 29, “Steep rent hikes as grants near end”). The two-year Lower Manhattan Development Corp. residential grants are beginning to expire for many tenants, and the neighborhood should prepare for a parade of moving trucks and fleeing tenants. I moved to Lower Manhattan four years ago this week and cannot imagine living anywhere else. Over the past year, I focused on getting involved with community activities like the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Certified Emergency Response Team in Battery Park City. I do all I can to promote Downtown shopping and dining to friends and family. Unfortunately, I do not know how long I can stay here before escalating rents force me out of the neighborhood. I took a poll of four friends, all who have lived Downtown for four or more years, to find out if they will stay when their grant expires — one out of four said they would stay. Everyone else, including me, is predicting a large rent increase on top of the loss of the grant money, as well as living with major disruptions caused by the anticipated construction. It is not appealing to pay $2,500 plus rent to live with the inconveniences of a major construction zone.

I attended a presentation on Jan. 27 run by the Civic Alliance, which presented the results of their Planning and Design Workshop held Dec. 13-18, 2002. The Civic Alliance took on a challenge to illustrate a range of alternative scenarios for the future of Lower Manhattan, including a Livable Neighborhood Plan. This challenge stemmed from Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for Lower Manhattan that was unveiled just before the workshop started. I applaud the dedication of the individuals involved with the Civic Alliance in undertaking this challenge and producing ideas and models with great creative foresight, while addressing the components of the mayor’s vision. However, one critical issue was not appropriately addressed, and seemed to be an afterthought of the group that created the Livable Neighborhood Plan. The critical issue is affordable housing in Lower Manhattan. The Civic Alliance panel did not have an expert who could address the topic when multiple audience members posed questions about the topic. In response to an inquiry about the percentage of affordable housing included in the Livable Neighborhood Plan for roughly 25,000 additional dwelling units over the next ten years, a panel member from the City Planning Dept. provided the audience with the name of a person to contact at the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.

The Livable Neighborhood Plan, presented by the Civic Alliance, called for the creation of new neighborhoods and the revitalization of existing neighborhoods. A revitalized Fulton corridor will not be viable for residential use until the majority of the M.T.A. transportation terminal is completed. A new Rector/Greenwich Square neighborhood is enticing, but also not viable until construction at, and beyond the south side of, the site, ends. While I like the ideas offered in the plan, I am looking for an immediate solution to keep our community growing and staying strong. I do not want to see my neighborhood disintegrate over the next year because there is a lack of affordable housing and a host of property owners who claim the right to continue raising rents each year. I live in the best neighborhood in Manhattan, but I also live with daily reminders and inconveniences caused by the events of Sept. 11. Yet, I want to stay because this is my home and I am determined to make Lower Manhattan a great place to live and work.

I propose the mayor, working with the N.Y.C. Housing Development Corporation, consider financing a new Housing Opportunity Program for Lower Manhattan, and challenge the Civic Alliance to plan for new condominium, co-op, and rental developments as part of his vision. A project such as “1400 on 5th,” located on 116th St., would be ideal for Lower Manhattan. This project provides middle-income households with the opportunity to buy or rent apartments in their neighborhood. City government must address the issue of affordable housing now, and not in two years when occupancy rates may not be as high as projected after the grant program ends. Community comes from stability, and stability in Lower Manhattan can only be achieved by retaining residents and promoting programs and services that improve the residents’ quality of life.

Kelly Colangelo

Return to Governors I.

To The Editor:
As a member of the commercial real estate community for the past 25 years, I have experienced several business cycles. The current fragile cycle can be stabilized by confronting the long-term reality of the enduring war.

While business leaders are surely concerned about the future of the city, many feel impotent in their ability to control the outcome. I believe much of this is based in our government’s inability to develop a workable anti-terror plan; deep-down many of us fear that another event, whether big or small, may cripple the city.

It is for this reason that I would like to see the subject of homeland security addressed by reactivating Governors Island. It is no longer a federal property and has been ceded to the state and the city — but without a development plan; a development plan relies on the economy. Isn’t it time we consider the temporary reopening of a Coast Guard facility, perhaps leasing it back to the federal government?

The effects would be beneficial for a number of reasons:

It establishes a practical plan that can help our business community feel comfortable with long-term commitments and investment. No doubt, the Coast Guard’s mere presence creates a more secure feeling for all.

If there is an event, we will have the means for a centralized, coordinated effort with local law enforcement and a staging area for training.

The Coast Guard can develop an active role in the longer-term plan of securing “container traffic and safety,” a serious problem facing many port cities along our coast.

Our elected officials in both New York and New Jersey should consider embracing the concept; it is long overdue.

Richard Feldman

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