Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Freedom Tower 

Ron Rosenbaum writes this week in the New York Observer about the moment New Yorkers have to reassess the proposed Freedom Tower. Security concerns have stopped current design plans and Rosenbaum thinks this is the last moment when the project itself could be scrapped. Rosenbaum points out that the proposed office tower has seemingly supplanted the memorial as tribute to the WTC buildings themselves, as opposed to a tribute to the dead.

Personally, I’m not sure what I think about the Freedom Tower anymore. The tower’s architect moved us when he discussed the ideas he based his design on. Daniel Liebeskind’s thoughts, honoring the US Constitution and the personal freedoms the United States enshrines in the document, seemed to be prodding us to live up to our promise with the building he designed. The original Freedom Tower design itself was inspiring; it looked wounded, but proud.

On the other hand, lofty statements are small comfort to the families of future casualties of an attractive target, who might suffer for having a loved one working in a building that sends the defiant statement that, “We can rebuild, taller, whatever you blow up.” The idealism of Liebeskind’s original design was since changed to be more accommodating to the developer and his priority; including more office space. It seems now as much a tribute to the business of business as to those who perished. Should it go up and will wise people want to work in it? I don’t know. I moved my business downtown after September 11 and I think about whether it was wise, but I'm not leaving because of those doubts.

On the other hand, in New York, we have a target on our back anyway, so something should happen soon down at Ground Zero and it ought to both honor the dead and begin to put downtown back together. The memorial, at least, should go ahead rapidly. The transit center needs to go ahead, the faster, the better. The void left by keeping a huge hole in the ground does nothing for New Yorkers or for those who perished and their families. Perhaps something less grandiose than the tallest tower possible would be a better center for a community rebuilding itself at Manhattan's base. Whatever happens, it shouldn’t be about Governor Pataki's potential run for the Presidency or developer Silverstein's profit margin. We all have a huge stake in the future of Lower Manhattan.

UPDATE: If you were wondering whether there will be any reassessment of the Freedom Tower, wonder no longer.

John Cahill, Pataki’s chief aide and new Ground Zero Czar, made it clear on Sunday Edition with Marcia Kramer that he’s ramming the Freedom Tower forward essentially as is. Cahill said its construction is about “the whole nation.”

Conveniently, no one mentioned Cahill’s boss possibly running for President, with renderings of the Freedom Tower as a backdrop for his patriotic commercials. Nor were there any questions about what's in the best interests of building a 24/7 community downtown.

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