Many Visions for WTC Site
Plans lacking a
By GREG GITTRICH and ERIC
Daily News Staff Writers
n the first days after Sept. 11, it all seemed so simple.
In defiant tones, politicians and planners declared that the twin
towers must be rebuilt. Anything else was unthinkable.
|Monica Iken of the Bronx, whose husband,
Michael, died in the Trade Center attacks, heads a group that
wants a 'peaceful sanctuary' built at the site.
"Our skyline will rise again," Mayor
Developer Larry Silverstein, who
controlled the World Trade Center, vowed to build four shorter,
"We have an obligation to replace
this," Silverstein said three months ago.
But as the impact of the catastrophe
sank in, other voices clamored to be heard. Hesitations arose about
rebuilding on a space many considered to be hallowed ground.
One such voice belonged to Monica
Iken. Iken's husband, Michael, died in Tower 2, and his remains have
not been recovered. The 31-year-old widow from Riverdale, the Bronx,
has started her own group, September's Mission, whose goal is "to
make sure that we take that land and turn it into a peaceful
sanctuary for our loved ones," she said.
"We need a place to go, because I
don't have any closure. I have nothing," Iken said.
The site of the first battle of what
President Bush called the first war of the 21st century is becoming
a battlefield of a different sort. Already, people are lining up
with claims of controlling what happens there.
They include Silverstein and shopping
mall giant Westfield, who hold a 99-year lease on the land; the Port
Authority, which owns the land and wants to rebuild its damaged PATH
lines below; Mayor Giuliani and Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg; Gov.
Pataki; the Empire State Development Corp. and its new subsidiary,
the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corp., and people like Iken who
lost family members on Sept. 11.
So while Silverstein has already hired
architect David Childs to design new office buildings, Iken has
hired an architect of her own to come up with designs for a
memorial. Like many who lost family members in the attack, she feels
she has some claim to the land.
The Port Authority is the legal owner
of the land. Last summer, the agency turned the twin towers and
surrounding buildings over to Silverstein in history's biggest real
estate deal, valued at $3.2 billion. The arrangement was seen as
sweet for both sides: The Port Authority would no longer have to
manage the towers and was guaranteed yearly lease payments starting
at $116 million. Silverstein and Westfield stood to profit by
increasing efficiency and raising rents.
The players inked the deal at the
Trade Center's outdoor plaza under a burning July sun.
Six weeks later, everything
|Crews still work around the clock at Ground
After the attacks, Silverstein, still
hard-charging at 70 years old, hammered on the theme of rebuilding.
No one doubted that his 99-year lease gave him a strong legal claim.
The $9 million monthly rent he is still paying to the Port Authority
gives him the right to rebuild.
"It's pretty clear that Silverstein
can rebuild, under our agreement, what was there before," said
Charles Gargano, the Port Authority's vice chairman who also heads
the Empire State Development Corp.
But conflicting ideas of what to build
there quickly emerged.
Silverstein said rebuilding two
110-story office towers was not "feasible" and broached the idea of
four smaller towers. He later said he also would like to build a
performing arts center, a hotel and condominiums on the
The necessity of change has already
loosened Silverstein's legal hold on the property.
"If he wants to deviate and change the
design, then he has to get approval from the Port Authority,"
Gargano said. "And obviously, that means he's going to need the
Giuliani had his own ideas about what
to do with the land, saying that a memorial to the victims should
"dominate" the 16-acre plot. He also said Silverstein's development
rights could be transferred uptown, to the far West Side.
"If you do something with that site
that draws millions of people here every year to relive, to
consider, to ponder, to think about what happened — the way they've
done at Normandy — you do that right, and you just think of millions
of people coming there," Giuliani said.
Giuliani's views echo those of many of
the groups formed by the families of those killed. Giuliani invoked
Normandy. John Lynch, whose firefighter son was killed, compared the site to Gettysburg in a Daily News
Op-Ed column. Others mentioned
Oklahoma City. Some, like Stephen Push of the Families of September
11, say building commercial buildings in the exact spot where the
towers stood would be "sacrilegious."
"If our wishes are ignored and if
inappropriate things are done with that property, either out of
indifference or ignorance, then we'll feel victimized a second time,
and it's just not right," Push said.
Push said commercial buildings could
be built on some part of the site, as long as it didn't interfere
with the families' wishes.
But Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter
son died in the attack, said, "I'm absolutely categorically opposed
about building a commercial building. And I actually do have a lot
of reservations about any type of building there."
Silverstein agreed that there should
be a memorial where the towers stood. "The voices of those who have
lost loved ones are going to be terribly important in whatever is
done on the memorial," he told The News.
"We're all going to have to get
together and work on a consensus that each of the constituencies is
happy with," he said.
Consensus Is His
The job of forging a consensus could
fall to John Whitehead, chairman of the Lower Manhattan
Redevelopment Corp., the new agency charged with rebuilding
downtown. At the news conference announcing his appointment,
Whitehead addressed what he said was the group's
"This is the final resting place for
the loved ones of so many people in the city who need to find a
place where they can visit," he said. "We need a very important
memorial of some sort, be it a park, a chapel, who knows what it
should be. But land must be set aside."
Whitehead said he will appoint
advisory boards to help make decisions about building on the site.
Each will represent one of the "constituencies" with a stake,
including victims' families, people who live in the neighborhood,
and business owners and Wall Street leaders, with the mayor and
governor as "final arbiters."
That much democracy might not sit well
with some of the victims' families. Stephen Push acknowledged the
rights of all those involved, but said, "The interests of the
families of the deceased trump all those other
Silverstein, in the meantime, is
fighting another battle, trying to win $7 billion in insurance
payments that will enable him to rebuild.
"It's not his thing to build anyway he
wants, and we all know that," Gargano said. "There's going to have
to be consensus, cooperation between many, many people."
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