The new plans for the W.T.C. site

The adjustments architect Daniel Libeskind released for his World Trade Center site plan last week are undoubtedly an improvement over the proposal announced in February. By seeking to expand the site to include the Deutsche Bank building and the Milstein Properties sites across the street, several of the problems with the original design can be solved.

First, it allows for the creation of a two-acre park on Liberty St., primarily at the Milstein site. The original design provided far too little open space other than the 4.7-acre memorial area. The Wedge of Light – whose name perhaps should be changed now that the special lighting effect that Libeskind once claimed is no longer mentioned by him or anyone else at the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. – is likely to be only about one acre and it will be split by Fulton St.

About one million square feet of office space has been moved off of Church St., which would have been overwhelmed by bulky towers if the Port Authority and the L.M.D.C. had proceeded with plans to jam 10 million sq. feet of office space back onto a 16-acre site – a site that also must accommodate new streets and a significant memorial.

The proposed retail appears to be reconfigured in a way that will promote active street life as well as allowing for the type of destination retail that could excite residents, workers and tourists alike.

Moving almost all of the mechanical equipment off of the area where the Twin Towers once stood answers the strong desire expressed by just about all of the leaders of the relatives of the 9/11 victims not to build on the towers’ footprints.

The memorial to the victims of the 1993 W.T.C. bombing and the 2001 attack will include the entire area of the footprints and will provide a place for family members to touch the bedrock 70 feet below street level. Over half the 2,792 families that lost loved ones at the W.T.C. have never recovered any remains and the importance of the bedrock to them is quite clear.

In deference to family members, officials are abandoning the idea of building a tour bus garage under the memorial area and are proposing to put it under part of the Deutsche Bank site on Liberty St. This would be a wonderful solution if there were enough room to take all of the tour buses off the street, but there’s not. The P.A. says they need at least 90 spaces buses and that they will only have room for 40 –50 buses. The P.A. thinks there’ll be a need for even more bus spaces in the first few years after the memorial opens. Where are the other 40 to 50 buses going?

Gov. George Pataki has been the driving force behind meeting the families’ desire to “protect the footprints.” It is now up to him to find a way to solve the bus problem in a way that does not overwhelm the neighborhood. Site 26 in Battery Park City – the lot just east of the Embassy Suites hotel — is the third proposed location for the garage, and we are open to the possibility that it could be a viable alternative. It is clearly costly because it would require a new bathtub to be built. It also may have a negative impact on Battery Park City, the largest residential neighborhood near the W.T.C., including the newly reopened ballfields, P.S./I.S. 89 and Stuyvesant High School.

The acquisition of the Deutsche and Milstein sites is a very positive development. But that, along with the costs of moving mechanical equipment and the price of building longer underground ramps to route trucks around the footprints, presumably brings the additional costs to something in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Build another bathtub, and who knows how high the costs go. Before we “preserve the footprints” down to bedrock — except for the PATH commuter tracks which many relatives have accepted will continue to run over the footprints – it is important to know what the cost is. We understand that some may feel that no cost would be too high. Others will differ.

Once we know the costs, and tradeoffs, then we all can make an informed decision about whether it is worth building only train tracks over the footprints or is it perhaps also worth building an area under the memorial to accommodate the vehicles that bring people paying respect to those who were lost.

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