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Ground Zero: A Week for Unveilings, Exhibitions, Discussions, and Debates

by Kristen Richards
July 15, 2002

“The successful resolution of an urban design plan for the WTC site will greatly depend upon an open collaboration.” – from a statement by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners and Parsons Brinckerhoff.


We’re less than two months away from September 11, 2002, and even closer to seeing what could be in store for Downtown New York. Tomorrow (7/16), the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will unveil six proposals for the re-development of Ground Zero and environs developed by Beyer Blinder Belle/Parsons Brinckerhoff and the rest of their team.


The rumors and rumblings (not to mention the grumblings) have been flying.


This past Friday, New York Newsday raised a number of issues (including the lack of housing in any of the plans, and some proposals call for building on part of the south tower site) in “Limited Downtown Renewal? Architects, planners worry that WTC plans lack creativity,” and succinctly clarified some of the more blatant myths and truths in “More Facts About Redeveloping the WTC Site.” The New York Times reported that at a press conference on Saturday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has previewed the proposals, called them “a start.” If that didn’t sound cautious enough, he continued: "I've got some ideas which I will certainly write to them and I'd encourage everybody else to do it."


People have been – and will be doing more than just writing.


Between March and May, Imagine New York, a project of the Municipal Art Society, held 230 “visioning workshops” with more than 3,000 participants. Three questions were asked: What have we lost? How have we changed? Thinking about the World Trade Center site, your community, and the New York region as a whole, how can we move forward from September 11th? A Summary Report was issued on June 10, and delivered to all downtown development decision-makers.


Imagine New York: An Exhibition of Ideas,” which opens this Wednesday, July 17 at the Urban Center Galleries (457 Madison Avenue at 51st Street), offers a selection of the more than 19,000 ideas and images that were generated by the workshops and submitted to the Web site created so the global community could participate. “We chose images and text that best represent the breadth and diversity of the thousands of visions gathered,” says curator Aimee Molloy. A very, very small sampling is presented here, and all submissions are viewable in the Idea Gallery on the Imagine New York Web site. The exhibition is free and open to the public through October 10.


Then, on Saturday, July 20, about 5,000 people are expected at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York to participate in “Listening to the City,” being billed as “an interactive, high-tech town meeting.” Groups of 10-12, each led by a facilitator, will hold round-table discussions about the six “official” proposals. Networked, wireless laptop computers will serve as "electronic flipcharts" to record ideas, and each table's input will be instantly transmitted to a "theme team" that identifies emerging themes and ideas. The all-day event, sponsored by Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York with the support of the LMDC, among others, is free and open to the public, but registration is required.


On Monday, July 22, the six preliminary site plans by Beyer Blinder Belle/Parsons Brinckerhoff and team will be on view (through early September) in the rotunda at the 1842 Federal Hall National Memorial located at Wall and Nassau Streets (212-825-6888). Monday evening, beginning at 6:30 at the Urban Center Galleries, the Municipal Art Society is hosting a panel discussion called “A Vision to Promote Tolerance and Diversity on the World Trade Center Site” (reservations: 212-935-3960). Panelists include: Ruth Abrams, president, Lower East Side Tenement Museum; Michael J. Fox, president/CEO, Muhammad Ali Center; Colleen Kelly, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; and Reverend Peter Laarman, senior minister, Judson Church. Both are free and open to the public.


The issues, discussions, debates, events, and developments will obviously be ongoing. We will be sure to keep you updated.


There are also a number of other organizations and coalitions, many involved in or supportive of the events mentioned here, and that have their own reports, programs, and events regarding the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan:


New York New Visions: A coalition of 20 architecture, planning, and design organizations representing over 30,000 individuals has pooled the collective resources and technical expertise in a pro-bono effort to address the issues surrounding the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.


R.DOT: Rebuild Our Town Downtown: A coalition of Lower Manhattan residents, businesses, associations, architects, and designers. In June, the group officially endorsed a call for an international design competition for imaginative, sustainable design solutions for redeveloping Lower Manhattan.


The New York City Infrastructure Task Force: A collective of leading local design professionals formed to help build consensus on any decisions regarding reconstruction. Pro-bono efforts are intended to allow planning, design and construction to move forward while allowing concerned constituencies to have a voice.


New York City Partnership: A not-for-profit membership organization with the mission to advance the interests of New York City businesses.


Wall Street Rising: A coalition of businesses, industries, and residents of the downtown community, dedicated to restoring the vibrancy and vitality that existed in Lower Manhattan prior 9/11.


The best way to keep track of almost everything having to do with downtown redevelopment is the Gotham Gazette.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Imagine New York: Pon Sudbanthad, NYC)
Freeform of Freedom: Cultural-Socio-Economic-Transportation facilities are combined as "artis-dramatic" memorial complexes.

(Imagine New York: Ricky Seabra, Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Mirrored Atrium: Upholding Our Skyward Vision as a Culture

(Imagine New York: Gregory J. Higgins, Architect, Peter Coe, Jean Guytanof, NYC,
Super-tall Memorial Tower would be the tallest structure in the world.

(Imagine New York: Irene M. Christopher, NYC)
Lapel pin to wear until 5-story memorial is built with names engraved on glass

(Imagine New York: Jason Freeny, NYC)
Memorial constructed of recycled materials from WTC

(Imagine New York: Erik Sieb, Québec City)
Three 108-story towers create silhouette of original towers.

(Imagine New York: Lower Manhattan Memorial Group: Marc Bailly (illustration), James Langley, Manuel Mergal, and Steven Semes (founding members))
September 11th Memorial

(Imagine New York: Jeffrey Russell, John Seiferth (background photo), NYC)
New World Trade Center

(Imagine New York: Ethan Ernest, NYC)
A serpentine, 7 million-square-foot building, a park, and a memorial

(Imagine New York: James Richards, Palm Bay, Florida)
Memorial to the lives lost, a reminder of the two towers, and a tribute to early New York skyscraper design; approximately 911 feet.

(Imagine New York: Steve Bacher, Yonkers, NY)
Soaring Arches

© 2002