New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg Speaks
About Plans for Ground Zero
By Victor Lana
Of all the questions asked about the future of Ground Zero, none seems as pertinent as what should actually be built on the site. Most of the victims’ families expect (and will eventually get) some kind of memorial to those lost on 9/11. What is very debatable are plans for the rest of the site.
What bothers many New Yorkers is the nature of the buildings to be erected on the sixteen acres. A so-called Freedom Tower would consist of office and retail space and, at 1,776 feet above the ground, it would considerably alter the post-9/11 skyline. Do we really need this monolith scarring the sky above the place where the worst attack on United States civilians in our history took place? Does the city, specifically lower Manhattan, need more office and rental space?
Mayor Bloomberg, in an interview with the New York Daily News, indicated that he felt a better idea for Ground Zero would be schools and residential property. If one is a familiar with the area, these are two things that are in great need. Bloomberg did not mention it, but green spaces are also in short supply and would enhance the neighborhood much more than austere, and possibly largely vacant, office buildings.
Of course, one of the key players in this whole matter is Larry Silverstein, who holds the lease on the property and is the major force behind commercialization of the rebuilding effort. Silverstein is also likely the recipient of $4.6 billion in insurance payments for buildings and properties lost on 9/11, so he is in a rather important position to shape the future of what many people think is sacred earth. The problem is the only thing Mr. Silverstein seems to believe is sacred is profit.
Bloomberg said in the interview that “It would be in the city’s interest to get Silverstein out.” The problem is how to remove Silverstein from the equation, and even the mayor admits that “nobody can figure out how to do it.” The fact that Bloomberg is saying this now, in an election year, is significant for he is making a stand for a more meaningful use of the property.
One salient concern I have about the interview is Bloomberg’s comments about the victims’ families. He seems bothered by “the power” that they have accumulated in the situation. Bloomberg’s questioning of the victims’ families is troublesome for a number of reasons, but mostly because it is blatantly inconsiderate of the collective loss they have suffered.
He says, “I understand their emotions” and yet he wants to deny them the power they have achieved through years of concerted effort. Victims’ families are involved in the battle for meaningful use of Ground Zero, the building of a proper memorial, and ensuring a lasting legacy for the loved ones they lost. It is not like they are attempting to benefit personally, as is Mr. Silverstein.
So, on a whole, the interview seems promising in that the mayor certainly understands that Larry Silverstein should not be the one to decide what happens at Ground Zero. The more puzzling and troubling matter is that Bloomberg appears to want to truncate the victims’ families and their noble efforts to preserve the memory of those lost on 9/11 with dignity and honor.
That’s not a wise thing for the mayor, or any politician, to attempt at this time. Whether in an election year or not, the families have legions of supporters and they not only make themselves known with monetary contributions and volunteering to assist the effort, they also go to the polls and vote. One thing that 9/11 has taught all of us is to have a good and distinct memory, and that will certainly be the case when we walk into the voting booths on Election Day.
So I applaud Mr. Bloomberg’s desire to get it right at Ground Zero, but I must remind him that the only way that is ever going to happen is if he makes certain that the victims’ families have a good deal of input and respect in the rebuilding process. If not, then he’s not as bad as Mr. Silverstein, he’s worse.
Copyright © Victor Lana 2005