Gerson’s Ground Zero Gambit

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Friday, September 26, 2008
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Alan Gerson, the City Council rep for Lower Manhattan, issued a major statement today along with the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee, which he chairs. The statement lays out 17 demands the committee feels will ensure the timely opening of the memorial plaza by Septmber 11, 2011. It opens with an imposing if realistic appraisal of the challenges dogging the project so far:

The World Trade Center site is one of the most technically complicated modern construction projects ever undertaken: the building of five high rise towers, concomitantly, on a sixteen acre site over two train lines; issues of unprecedented toxicities and missing human remains; all in the middle of a bustling residential and business district. The architects, engineers and workers on the ground deserve credit for the performance of a difficult task, and interruptions, unexpected technical problems and delays should have been anticipated from its inception.

Gerson said that with the economy faltering, some might want to scale back or delay the project further, but he sees it as a WPA-style infrastructure opportunity, which can create jobs and infrastructure, which will be crucial once the economy rebounds. Gerson finished by asking Mayor Bloomberg, the Port Authority, and the LMDC to come together to finish the project on-time and in-line with Gerson’s recommendations.

An LMDC spokesperson said that the agency welcomed the advice but had the various projects under control. “It doesn’t really look like anything new,” the spokesperson said. And, according to today’s Times, the disparate parties overseeing Ground Zero have come up with a new plan to finish the memorial and much of the site by the tenth anniversary.

Update: Bloomberg spokesperson Jason Post responds: “We have different views. Council member Gerson thinks we need to add another layer of bureaucracy, the administration thinks we need to remove one.”

A list of Gerson’s recommendations and a link to the full statement after the jump.

1. Appoint an auditor general to monitor all Lower Manhattan redevelopment projects

2. Reaffirm the 9/11/11 deadline for permanently opening the Memorial Plaza

3. Modify PATH train mezzanine to achieve simple elegance with columns

4. Within 90 days, the MTA must re-issue bid specifications for the Fulton Street Transit Hub with specification changes aimed at lowering costs by at least $200 million

5. Fully fund Fiterman Hall’s reconstruction

6. Reaffirm the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at the proposed location, with the 1,000-seat theater in a Gehry designed building, with the Joyce Theater as the anchor tenant

7. The Port Authority must issue a timeline for the turnover of Tower 2 to Silverstein Properties immediately and issue a status report and timetable, with benchmarks for the completion of any outstanding infrastructure work on the sites for Towers 2, 3 and 4

8. Immediately convene a Memorial access planning group

9. The LMDC must release design specifications

10. NYPD and FDNY must conduct and release a full security and fire safety audit of plans for the underground museum

11. Produce a Lower Manhattan bus plan within nine months

12. The LMDC must immediately issue a detailed status report and timetable on 130 Liberty Street and provide regular updates

13. Close Vesey Street between Church Street and West Broadway, but only if the Port Authority meets the burden of demonstrating that to do so would materially save time or provide for greater safety

14. Continue the Steering Committee recently established by Port Authority Executive Director Ward

15. Continue the Port Authority briefings for Family Members and Community Leaders in Lower Manhattan

16. Integrate the Tribute Center permanently into the Museum Entrance Building

17. Create a mechanism to strengthen construction site safety and Lower Manhattan’s livability

Read the eight-page statement, with details on all 17 points, here.

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