Rebuilding of World Trade Center site is still years away

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Within months of the hideous terrorist attack in 2001 that destroyed the World Trade Center, state and city officials in New York unveiled ambitious plans to build five new skyscrapers, a solemn memorial, and a gleaming new transit hub designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava at the 16-acre site that is known as Ground Zero.

The plans called for two reflecting pools that would sit atop the Twin Tower footprints next to the entrance to a permanent memorial to the 2,751 victims of the September 11 atrocities in New York. The new Freedom Tower would rise a symbolic 1,776 feet over the Manhattan skyline. Calatrava’s breathtaking design for the train station features the wings of a birdlike structure over a huge glass-covered portal.

Seven years after the attack, while some foundation work has been started, the only things that seems to be rising at the mainly empty site are construction estimates for the project. City and state officials, meanwhile, continue to argue over who is to blame.

Earlier this week, in an op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed scaling back the multibillion-dollar transit hub and abolishing the agency that approved the redevelopment plans for Ground Zero. Bloomberg wants to end the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.’s (LMDC) role at the World Trade Center site in order to ”eliminate one redundant layer of bureaucracy” that has stalled rebuilding.

The mayor also said that the underground mezzanine of the commuter transit hub, which overlaps with the Sept. 11 memorial, ”is too complicated to build.” Bloomberg, who helped raise $350 million in private funds to build the memorial, said officials should commit to opening the memorial by the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in 2011.

The city has been mud-wrestling for seven years with state development officials, a private developer and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over the WTC site. Three months ago, Gov. David Paterson of New York ordered the Port Authority to re-evaluate all the Ground Zero projects. His predecessor as governor, Eliot Spitzer, branded the LMDC ”an abject failure.” According to the Port Authority, all of the projects are ”over budget and behind schedule,” including the transit hub, now said to cost at least $1 billion more than its original $2.5 billion estimate.

The only thing certain at this point is that in coming months there will be more official reports, dire predictions and finger-pointing from political leaders and developers.

The people who died at the World Trade Center—and the rest of us, who all want to see a proper memorial and the symbolic and tangible rebirth that the site plans envision—deserve better.

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