Friday, September 08, 2006

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 164

Reaction continues to come in about the designs unveiled for the three new towers to go up along the East side of Ground Zero. The Post has a roundup of the unveiling yesterday. It's interesting that the Foster designed tower has the closest resemblance to the original Libeskind master plan design for the office towers, with the inward-sloping roofline. The other towers may yet grow on me, but the commenters at Curbed don't seem to like the designs much. Too disjointed. Too much like Shanghai. Too much look-at-me and self-indulgence. Well, no design is going to please everyone. James Gardener has a positive take on the designs - suggesting that they have a certain grace to them.

The Times has an article up about the reasons behind the slow progress at Ground Zero. If you've been reading my series to date, you'd know all this stuff. Bureaucratic infighting. Egos. And money. Gothamist has more.

Steve Cuozzo notes that critics of 7WTC should have egg on their face for their disparaging comments about Silverstein's occupancy rate, especially now that Moody's has signed up as a tenant.
Certainly, Bloomberg has belittled Silverstein at every turn, implying that the developer - not the state and city governments, which have bungled Downtown reconstruction from Day One - was responsible for all of the area's ills, including Ground Zero's empty pit.

Silverstein ended up getting his price at 7 WTC. But the mayor's rantings emboldened media outlets already hostile to Silverstein - reflected, for example, in a misleading Times story in July headlined, "Developer pulls out of Ground Zero deal despite officials' efforts."

That was about Silverstein's decision to drop negotiations with a Chinese company over space in 7 WTC. Yet he'd changed his mind, not out of obstinacy, but because the company failed to deliver a letter of credit and because others were willing to pay more.

That story was but one of dozens in the Times to denigrate 7 WTC. The paper endlessly pushed the line that companies were shunning it. A typical piece on July 26, 2005, in reporting the first small lease, snarked that Silverstein had been "trying for months" to land a tenant; that the lease was for "just 1 percent" of the tower; it "does not guarantee that the $1.3 billion building will have a flourishing future;" and that Silverstein's price of $50-plus per square foot is "seen as an impediment."

But then, the Times opposed large-scale commercial redevelopment Downtown even before 9/11's tragic dust had settled. The paper embraces an elitist, utopian vision of a 24/7 wonderland of apartments, parks and cultural uses for the area - at the expense of office replenishment.

The Daily News got into the act too; its editorial page warned Silverstein not even to try rebuilding the towers. Of course, the News' owner is real-estate mogul Mort Zuckerman. One-third of all his Manhattan leases will expire during the years when new buildings are expected to rise at Ground Zero - and competition from newly minted towers is clearly not to his liking.
Newsday and the Daily News comments on the unveiling as well, and notes that Greenwich Street will once again run through the site, which I think is a big mistake - not only does it cut off pedestrian traffic through the site, but poses a security risk to the towers and memorial areas.

The News also reports that there are serious concerns about the deconstruction efforts at the Deutsche Bank building. Indeed, the paper cites warnings of a collapse because the stability of the building is in question.
Officials have raised concerns about a possible massive floor collapse during the planned demolition of the Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero, the Daily News has learned.
In comments to the state agency overseeing the tearing down of the 40-story tower, federal regulators demanded that workers now removing toxic dust from the interior be evacuated before any demolition starts.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration officials warned, "An unexpected collapse could very well pancake the floors quicker than employees below could evacuate."
Such a collapse could quite well bring the entire building down, and inundate the entire area with toxic debris.

Ex-EPA head, Christie Todd Whitman, puts the blame of the Ground Zero worker ailments on the City. Nice. There's plenty of blame to go around, but when there's a clear record showing that the federal EPA stated that air conditions were acceptable, when they were not shows that Whitman is being disingenous at best, and her Department put workers at risk.

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