Lost in the hub bub over in the past few weeks in developments for new Yankee, Giants and Jets stadiums was an announcement that the Lower Manhattan Development Council wants to finalize how it’s going to spend the last of its $10 Billion to remake Downtown. Ironically, the $10 Billion is much more than the combined costs of three stadiums including government subsidized “improvements.”
LMDC’s proposals are simply amazing and staggering in their scope. Included is a plan for a $6 Billion rail link to Jamaica Station (not directly to JFK as is widely believed), plans to cover Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel entrance and replace it with “Greenwich Green” park and a $500 Million bus garage; plans for multibillion dollar overhauls of the World Trade Center, South Ferry and Fulton Street subway stations and plans for parks and trails stretching from Tribeca to the East River.
While LMDC is building parks everywhere Downtown, it seems to be ignoring its raison d’être – a memorial park at Ground Zero.
The 16-acre World Trade Center site has been carved up for commercial development so that only about 3 acres – bordered by Fulton Street on the North, Greenwich on the East, Liberty on the South, and West Street on the West has been committed to commemorate the events of September 11.
In more logical times you would think that the events of September 11 would deserve at least a city block. But the 3 acre city block has even been subdivided with plans for a massive “Freedom Center” that will block the footprints from the rest of Manhattan.
So in essence 2/3 to 3/4 of Ground Zero is going to have structures on it. There’s the Freedom Center and Michael Arad’s Reflecting Absence waterfall pits covering the massive footprints. LMDC has brought in a bevy of high powered landscapers to try and make it more palatable – which in effect is like having interior decorators rescue a poor floor plan with curtains.
LMDC has attempted to correct this mistake by attempting a land grab on space that historically was not part of the WTC complex – creating a park on land just south of the complex and making a $1 Billion ill fated attempt to cover West Street.
On my website 911memorials.org I list 92 memorials on an ever expanding list of memorials across the country. All of the memorials which stretch from tiny villages like Anthony, Kansas, to the Boston Garden to an overlook at Malibu are in landscaped parks. All of the memorials permit you to interact with above ground monuments. None of the memorials are high tech and high maintenance and none of the memorials are holes in the ground.
Why is it that LMDC can’t see what the rest of the country sees as obvious?
A landscaped park on the 3 acre site with a simple memorial (e.g., the Sphere) would speak more to the ages than the current proposed very expensive extravaganza (and would quite frankly be gentler on the master plans to save Downtown).
The current plan will forever cut off any interaction with the footprints. Family members can not go to the corner of the building where their loved one worked. Firefighter cannot commemorate the stairwells where their number was lost in appalling numbers.
More than a hundred years ago, New York thought it had a historic draw in erecting an elaborate U.S. Grant’s tomb. It in fact it was tourist draw. But after a generation that knew Grant passed, the Tomb has lost its luster.
There is a generation that will mourn the absence of the World Trade Center. But what will we leave for the next generation who never knew it? LMDC needs to get Ground Zero right even if it means rethinking its memorial plans.
The memorial which was designed in backroom shennagins by an unaccountable jury within 2 years of the events has never caught the public imagination.
New York could learn a lot from Kansas.
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