Environmental Fears at Ground Zero Hearing
By ANTHONY DePALMA
Published: February 19, 2004
he controversy that has surrounded nearly every aspect of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site spilled over to the project's impact on the environment yesterday as New Yorkers had their first chance to express concerns publicly about traffic, air pollution and the availability of public space.
More than 100 people showed up at Pace University's Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, a few blocks from the redevelopment area, to pick through details of the 2,000-page draft environmental impact statement for the redevelopment.
While electricians, small-business owners and other workers encouraged the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to begin work on the project right away, many residents of Lower Manhattan wanted the process delayed until all aspects of the decadelong construction project are studied more thoroughly.
Caroline Martin, who represented the Family Association of TriBeCa East, said the impact statement did not sufficiently address such important issues as air monitoring.
"The final environmental impact statement should include a detailed plan for air and sound monitoring around the periphery of the site during construction, with the hourly readings posted," Ms. Martin said. She also asked for more time to study the 2,000-page document, which was made public on Jan. 22.
The current deadline for comment is March 15. Ms. Martin asked for an extension to May 15.
But Joseph Llanos, 46, an electrician from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., said there had already been too many delays.
"The time has come to cut through the red tape and start rebuilding the site," said Mr. Llanos, one of several members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who spoke at the hearing. "The construction industry is an important part of the New York City work force and it needs to get back to work."
Environmental impact statements are required for all major buildings in New York, but this one is different. Because the site is so large - 16 acres - and the project will take so long to complete, the environmental assessment is considered generic, taking into account the impact of several buildings yet to be designed.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has proposed a set of design guidelines with energy conservation measures and environmental safeguards that would cover all buildings on the site. But several speakers doubted the standards could be effectively applied.
Andrew Winters, the corporation's director of planning, design and development, said it had not yet been determined how to enforce those guidelines. "That's what we're working on right now," he said.
Throughout the afternoon, speakers said the impact of the project had not been sufficiently studied.
"This is a rush job," said Jenna Orkin, a member of the steering committee of 9/11 Environmental Action, a neighborhood organization, "The rebuilding project shows signs of repeating the reckless behavior of the cleanup operation."
The availability of open space was another frequently voiced objection. Diane Dreyfus, an urban planner, said the city would end up with only 60 percent as much open space as existed before.
Some of the most unexpected comments came from Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the first artificial heart. Dr. Jarvik, who had submitted a competing design for the victims' memorial, criticized the winning design, saying that the extraordinary amounts of both water and electricity it would use had not been fully acknowledged.
"I know something about how pumps work," said Dr. Jarvik. "This design should not be built."