Five fortnights on the perimeter:
11 to 24 September | 25 September to 8 October | 9 to 22 October | 23 October to 5 November | 6 to 19 November ||
previous And after ... || Updates and corrections || 30 May 2002: Job done? || Winter Garden photo update ||
Greenwich Village park continues tradition honoring fallen firefighters

[photo] West Street at Murray, 7 June 2002

<wtc map>
1 WTC: North Tower
2 WTC: South Tower
3 WTC: Vista Hotel
4 WTC: Southeast Plaza Bldg:
      Commodities Exchange
5 WTC: Northeast Plaza Building
6 WTC: U.S. Custom House
7 WTC: Tishman Center

1 WFC: Dow Jones
2 WFC: Merrill Lynch
3 WFC: American Express
      (north of Winter Garden)

[photo: "luxury lofts"]
15 July: With a new neighbor like this, wonder how long the Dakota Roadhouse can survive.

Circumnavigating the frozen zone              
Five fortnights walking the perimeter             

And now ...

6 July 2002
Copyright © 2001-2005 Diane Fisher.
photos: adpFisher

NEW YORK CITY south of 14th Street, 3 July 2002--I've tried to stay divorced from preliminary discussions of the site's future because no visionary is anywhere to be seen, and that certainly includes myself. But I'm as entitled to my opinions as everyone else weighing in.
While I don't favor rebuilding the WTC (the terrorists win if we give them the satisfaction of spite buildings) or anything like it (it's time to move on, time for 21st century--post-Moses era--planning, time for something better, not bigger, than the WTC), I agree entirely with those who want to see the streets that used to cut through the 16 acres remapped and repaved. And I agree with the current mayor and the side that wishes to see the victims memorialized, not sentimentalized, that declares that downtown must not be turned into a cemetery. My father was a WWII hero. Should the islands where he fought or the hospital where he died have been dedicated to him? I don't think so. The wishes of the folks who live in those places get top priority. Calls for a sprawling memorial, for even higher replacement towers, represent a failure of imagination that's not representative of New York City. Some WTC survivors' demands are so extravagant you have to wonder about the quality of counseling they're getting.
Now Rudy is agitating extremist survivors--fearing history might otherwise fail to give his performance of duty (awesome the first two weeks), his FDNY, his NYPD, their due? Next thing you know, he'll be charging City Hall again à la the notorious police riot he led before he was elected. Without the power of public office, this relentlessly pernicious little man has it in him to be at least a public nuisance if not dangerous.
Who, however, would deny the need for a prominent memorial?
At the base of each tree on Clarkson Street adjacent to James Walker Park is a simple brass plaque with the name of a perished firefighter from the nearest firehouse or cop from the nearest precinct house. Collectively, they
are non-maudlin, affecting, living reminders. I'd wish for a vast extension of the concept, a tree with a plaque for each of the nearly 3000 victims along the sidewalks of as many blocks as it takes radiating from the WTC site--each something of a "Portrait in Grief" translated to the sidewalks of all downtown New York. At 10 trees on each side of the street, 40 per square block, by my math that would be a much farther-reaching memorial than the WTC site's 16 acres, more than 70 tree-lined blocks. Think about it. ...
June 2002
In addition, a museum devoted to the WTC's planning, construction, '93 injury and rebuilding, everyday life and calamitous death, and the international outpouring that followed should fill the finished lower floors of an otherwise skeletal memorial observatory tower, the tallest of many structures of varying height, all exemplifying the best in contemporary urban architectural [photo] thinking, none trying to out-macho the others or existing buildings, built alongside many ungated, usable vest-pocket parks along many streets on the 16 acres. Maybe a floor of the tower should be assigned to a think tank devoted to studying the readiness of U.S. counterterror agencies.

6 July 2002
And some or all of the Battery Park City riverfront park might be dedicated to the memory of all WTC victims, '93 and '01. ...
None of those ideas is original. I haven't heard any better but I've heard some worse. (A photographer who chronicled the recovery has proposed, e.g., a tree planting for each victim at the WTC site. I don't know how much space one tree needs to thrive, but nearly 3000 surely would turn the entire site into a dense forest and require some extra land besides.) Nothing's going to satisfy everyone. I see now that Michael Tomasky has made the point a lot more effectively than I that bigger is not better in "Try to Remember," his 8 July New York Magazine column. I can only hope that the piece has some impact where it matters. I know Tomasky has at least been interviewed once on radio about it.
<Glimmer of hope, maybe, 30 June 2002: The Times speculated last week that the woman who founded Creative Time--sponsor of many of those imaginative "beachfront" events at the Battery Park City landfill and elsewhere whose memory I so treasure--was about to be named to head WTC memorial planning. 2 July: The appointment is official. See "Arts vet to oversee WTC memorial," by Daily News staff writer Emily Gest, New York Daily News Online, 3 July 2002.>
As for the other structures: First, I'd encourage the financial industry to move to midtown where some brokerages already have relocated, and Long Island City, eagerly waiting right across the East River, both near the upper East Side digs and restaurants, entertainment, etc execs favor, and the transportation employees take home to the suburbs. Extending rail transit to the midtown Javits Center area, where it's already sorely wanted, would certainly be less expensive and disruptive than extending it downtown to the huge new commuter hub that seems to be in the works now. Who'd want such a neighbor? The U.S. senator who's leading the charge strikes me as someone with absolutely no sense of place. Look at the dead or dangerous streets around Penn and Grand Central stations and the Port Authority Terminal to imagine the impact on a now vibrant neighborhood. Whereas the Javits Center's only neighbor is adjoining-wasteland-owner Donald Trump.
Downtown, the proximity of the upper harbor and rivers causes an extraordinary quality of light that--no offense intended--is wasted on financiers. I'd turn the area into artists and mixed-income housing, a cultural district with publishing and communications and computer-related businesses, small theaters, the kind of studio space dancers need, light manufacturing, and small-scale retail. Let's hear it for urban funk.
I'm not thinking Metropolitan Opera, which apparently is going to move down here. The problem isn't the Met, it's the inevitable prospect of another uninviting concrete desert like those surrounding Lincoln Center and the WTC. When I think WTC plaza my first memory is haste to duck into 5WTC out of the brutal heat the plaza was firing back at the sun the last times I crossed it. (Once inside 5WTC, the last door on the right I'd pass before entering Borders was a PAPD station. Wonder how many of the folks I so often passed there without a second thought lived to tell the tale. The PAPD took a bad hit.) If I think further, I remember overpriced concession stands, and the icy gray hopelessness the plaza projected all winter. Please, if it must be the Met, give us a nonsprawling streetfront Met like Carnegie Hall and the pre-LC Met without public amenities, thank you.

While New York City has a more arts-friendly mayor now, even Rudy had to acknowledge NYC cultural institutions' value as revenue generators--far more than sports, e.g. But high rents have disabled the city as an arts incubator. Time was, the upper East Side was the southernmost extension of Westchester County. Now gentification has devoured virtually
[photo] all of Manhattan except the projects. Predators with warehouses full of "Luxury Condos for sale" signs stalk artists. As soon as artists find a shabby but habitable area, developers make their moves, and there goes the neighborhood. More workers and artists can't hope to be able to afford to move in. Greenwich Village is long gone (what's not upper East Side luxury is sleaze steered this way to Disneyfy Times Square. The East Village is gone. So are Soho and Noho (all these names are real estate industry constructs). The signs are up now on every other building from Tribeca south. ...
Bleecker Street, 1 July 2002
Under Trump's only-the-rich-deserve- Manhattan banner,
[photo] developers are waging an undeclared war against diversity. They've almost won. How much is enough already? I declare it time finally to zone out luxury developers downtown and nurture art and artists and others trying to live and work here without trust funds.
... nearby Sixth Avenue, May 2002                                 

[photo] Whatever. Pols never listen to anyone but developers and pressure groups. The current mayor so firmly opposes certain proposals that have been made for the site and for Governors Island, one can only wonder what undisclosed plans he does support.
Tribeca snapshots, 9 July 2002

(I really don't mean to berate Mayor Bloomberg, who so far has conducted himself with a decency and dignity rarely found around City Hall in the previous eight years and has stood up to St. Rudy when he's surfaced, if not to any other powerful Republican publicly.)
I admit I had a very brief moment of irrational hope, but then the governor named the decision-making body, led by a suburbanite (huh?!?), the same bunch of mediocre male palefaces who make all important decisions. (A WNYC call-in host made, in regard to the present administration, one of the more astute observations I ever heard on Important Decisions. A caller asserted darkly that early in the election cycle a few rich Republicans had colluded in California at a very private place for rich people and chosen W. as the party apparatus's nominee. The host heard him out, then said, in effect: So what's your point? That's what we call politics.) A few rich white Republican men who live somewhere else will decide before long what ordinary New Yorkers will have to live with downtown, and that's just the way it is. Most of the WTC site leaseholder's surfacings relate to suits against insurance companies, and the Port Authority reminds everyone occasionally who's really boss. The oversight architects the governor's men chose did a terrific restoration of the Hoboken train station, but the WTC isn't a restoration project. Oh, yeah, Tribeca residents do have one rep on the board--non-male as it happens but of course rich--and the board has energetically solicited public comment; comment and a Metrocard will get you on the subway. <update, 16 July: The board published six preliminary plans, all focused on memorials, today and is scheduled to hear public comment Saturday at Javits Center.>
Get a load of "Pataki's Surprising Limit on Ground Zero Design" (2 July)! You have to wonder why they waste everyone's time going through the motions. The idea of Pataki, who fled this city for the 'burbs and who has never got the city's vote, single-handedly deciding the future of such an important chunk of Manhattan--and in order to get suburban votes!--is beyond sickening. Mailer and Breslin, where are you now that we need you? Never has secession looked more desirable.
You can call these sour words the usual rant of the disenfranchised--in New York City's case by both the state and federal governments. We just pay the bills. And the price. Schadenfreude is, however, an experience I know well and enjoy free of guilt. I've had the sublime pleasure of watching karma catch up with an awful lot of jerks (who nearly always are too full of hubris to realize that's what they are)--but, alas, only after they'd already done irreparable harm. Nonetheless, after a certain age the best revenge is staying alive and watching the creeps croak. Life's full of funny little surprises. Why, just last night I was idly leafing through a book I didn't know existed at my neighborhood bookstore and chanced upon a reference to myself. While that and a Metrocard will get me on the subway ... one never knows.
<Update, 24 July: No, one never does. Negative response to the six plans--except for the memorials all offices all the time in predictably banal buildings--offered 16 July was so widespread and so deep the poohbahs actually have had to back off. Unreal. (The Times was brutal; search Lower Manhattan Development Council.) The three proposals--the only proposals--that were widely praised were restoring the grid, burying West Street (excellent idea), and--I'll be darned--an arboreal memorial boulevard, block after block, a tree for each victim, along the buried West Street. We'll see. ... At least the proposterous idea of turning the whole site into a memorial seems to have slunk away.>

Five fortnights on the perimeter:
11 to 24 September | 25 September to 8 October | 9 to 22 October | 23 October to 5 November | 6 to 19 November ||
previous And after ... || Updates and corrections || 30 May: Job done? || Winter Garden photo update ||
Village park continues tradition honoring fallen firefighters || recommended reading :
Eyewitnesses, in their own words; heroes; Afghanistan then and now;
Israel and the Palestinians; intelligence gathering; on watching
what we say; some other politics; periodicals; and archives.

copyright © 2001-2005 Diane Fisher.

adpFisher nyc 24 July 2002