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Fear as Freedom Tower Bargaining Chip

July 14 2005 at 9:36 AM


With nearly universal opposition to the concept of a 20 story windowless concrete bunker at the base of the Freedom Tower across from Ground Zero you have to wonder whether it is merely a negotiation ploy by Larry Silverstein to get the police off his back.

Virtually nobody has praised the base and everybody says it sends the wrong signal. Plenty of people are now calling it the “Fear Tower.” The New York Post called it “Fort Zero.”

Of course nothing is what it seems at Ground Zero. And the first (or second or third) negotiation position is not the final offer.

By this strategy, Silverstein will be declared a hero if he gets 20 stories of rentable space back and gets the police to back off its demand for a truck bomb proof building (a requirement that no New York City building could meet). The David Childs design looks like it could easily be reconfigured for a kinder, gentler building. After all the thing won’t be done until 2010 (at best).

Steve Cuozzo in his original commentary on the unveiling headlined “Grand Idea on Shaky ‘Ground’” noted there were definitely signs that all is not what it seems.

On the surface, it was all sweet harmony and shared purpose. But the body language of the participants — and the ominous silence of one — tells a different story.

The mayor left early. The governor forgot to thank the developer. And the Port Authority, which owns the land and has no love for the developer, either, didn’t say a word.
Bloomberg, who never wanted new office towers at the World Trade Center site, made his priorities clear: After being allowed to speak first, he rushed out for a more pressing engagement — a Sanitation Department award ceremony.

His instant exit also saved him from having to sit for long next to Assembly Speaker Silver, who scuttled Bloomberg’s West Side stadium plan over fears it would hurt Silver’s downtown district.

Pataki acknowledged the contributions of practically everybody in the room. But in a too-obvious Freudian slip, he forgot to thank Silverstein, whom he has quietly battled tooth and nail since 9/11. It took whispers from the others and an annoyed wave from Silverstein before Pataki remembered him.

Doctoroff, the city’s economic-development chief who has shown next to no interest in lower Manhattan between his Olympics missions around the globe, said nothing at all.

But it was the Port Authority’s silence that left the queasiest feeling.

The PA — historically more loyal to the governor in Trenton than to the one in Albany — remains a huge factor in what happens next.

Meanwhile the design has given all sorts of wriggle room for anquish and jokes:

NEA: Can We Ever Be Truly Free Without Ample Fenestration?
Let Freedom Kaching!
Silverstein: My Building Won’t Kill You from gutter.curbed.com’s pit archive
Charges of Copied Building Designs (to be fair just how many ways are there to build a tall building):
Freedom Tower: Trump’s Sloppy Seconds?
Built of Steal (NY Post story about similarities to the unbuilt Comcast Center in Philadelphia) (photos)
Comparison to Mecca (picture intensive wired post)
Childs Reaps Rewards of NYSE Investment (similarities to proposal for NYSE on Hudson)
Comparisons to Windowless Shopping Mall (wired photo above)

Of course, our standard line is that a hard look should be given on whether it is necessary to build tall at Ground Zero anyway. The area would be better served by viewing the area what it is — a world transforming battlefield. Traditionally battlefields are protected and landscaped for future generations to appreciate. Even the Arizona at Pearl Harbor was protected even while the Pacific Fleet emerged from there to win World War II. Now 50 years later all of Ford’s Island (where the Arizona was) has become a memorial.

Since the timetables will continue to slip since. It seems they should at least have the decency to cover the corpse with a “temporary” park while the battles over new buildings proceed. Of course everybody seems afraid to do this because once that happens everybody will see that is what should be at Ground Zero.

With a massive park at Ground Zero (and it could be built at least temporarily in less than a year), businesses would want to move there on their own and not need the government to subsidize the move.

This was the common sense proposal originally put forth by Rudy Giuliani in days when it seemed the whole world sympathized with the U.S. and New York.

Current New York leaders have a pathological belief that all open space must be covered with new buildings. Thank heavens these folks weren’t around when Central Park was proposed.


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