Brad Causey
Brad Causey,
Editor and Publisher
Doug Helton
Kelly J. Logan
R. Shannon Pollard
Kevin Sommers
David R. Wehry
Brian Bordwine
James E. Foy
The Freedom Letter
All of us remember the horrible images of the hijacked planes hitting the Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and crashing into the field in southern Pennsylvania. We honor the innocent souls who perished.
As the title suggests this commentary is specifically about New York City and the "rebuilding" of the World Trade Center. As this is written, the Pentagon has been repaired and people are hard at work in the same area which was destroyed about a year a half ago. I have heard no griping from the media about relatives who are insulted that things have returned to normal. NYC stands in stark contrast. The longer the decision makers in NYC wait to decide what to do, the greater the victory our enemies have achieved.
The twin towers and the the five other buildings in the World Trade Center complex were initially planned in the late 1950's as a way to revitalize lower Manhattan. 16 acres of land were acquired by the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. The cold war was in full swing, and we wanted a symbol of the triumph of capitalism. The architect Mr. Minoru Yamasaki expressed his feelings:
"World Trade means world peace and consequently the World Trade Center buildings in New York have a bigger purpose than just to provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace. Beyond the compelling need to make this a monument, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness."
Naturally, the final design was controversial. In 1966, construction finally began. The foundation went so far down to bedrock, the island was actually increased in size by the excavated dirt. (the now exposed slurrywalls used to be a lot closer to the waters edge) The towers were dedicated in 1973. For a little over a year, the towers were the tallest (man-made) structures on earth. They have been featured in numerous movies over the years, and shown in hundreds of others. For a time, they were actually white-elephants. Mostly empty, and hated by those closest to them. In time, the towers grew on everyone. By the time of their untimely destruction in September of 2001, the leases were controlled by private investors, and they were 97% occupied. The complex included 10 million square feet of office space, an underground mall of almost a million square feet, a parking garage, and a subway station. Regardless of its early history, the world trade center complex, by September of 2001, had achieved its place as one of the greatest places to visit, shop and work on planet earth. It is for this reason it became a target for those who hate freedom and capitalism.
Last month, the entity charged with the rebuilding, picked a final design for the replacement. If you want to take a look at it please go the LMDC website at What do you think? No skyscrapers. Less office space. Less retail space. The only really tall structure looks more like a ugly cell tower than anything memorable. No disrespect meant to the designer, but let's call it uninspiring. Maybe boring? It is certainly not, in the words of office space leaseholder Larry Silverstein, "architecturally significant." I call it cowardly and unassuming. It is everything the original was not. If this is the best we can do, we would be better served by simply filling in the hole, planting grass, and putting up a marker.
Part, if not most of the problem, appears to be the decision making process. Every special interest group known to man has been given a voice. The families of those who died. The lease holders of both the office and retail space. The Port authority. The state and local politicians. And of course, those opposed to development generally. (the last group, like those opposed to war generally, have their heads some place other than in clean air) Add the media and the federal government, and you have a recipe for getting nothing done. So far, they have succeeded. On committees generally Dr. Ferdinand Porsche put it best:
"Committees are by nature timid, content by nature to survive inconspicuously, rather than take risks and move independently ahead. Without independence, without freedom for new ideas to be tried, to fail,and to ultimately succeed, the world will not move ahead, but live in fear of its own potential."
The requirements given to the designers by the committee were: nothing on the "footprints," more or less replace the quantity of space, and try to replicate the pre-world trade center street grid. My question on these requirements is why? If the original footprints were good places to build,then let's build on them again. I realize it is to honor those who died. But, the last thing they would want is a surrender to the terrorists. By precluding the construction of tall buildings or restricting their placement, we have done just that. People die in hospital rooms every day. Do we refuse to ever use the space again? People die on roads and highways each and every day. Do we stop using that section of road? Are we now supposed to knock down the Sears tower and the Empire State building, because our enemies do not like tall buildings? When the British army burned the Capitol and The White house during the war of 1812, did we give up, take our marbles and go home? No. We rebuilt them on exactly the samespot! We turned disaster and defeat into healing and victory. I see no problem with replacement of the street grid, but the reasons it was not maintained in the 60's may well apply today. We should also build something that fits the needs of the 21st century, both in space, technology and usage.
There was a television show of the 1970's, called The Six Million Dollar Man. The crux of the show was a terrible accident which maimed and almost killed an astronaut. Instead of giving up, they vowed: "We can rebuild him, we can make him better than he was. Better, faster, stronger." Today's theme has no doubt been changed to: "let's let him stay in the wheel chair, so we better remember the accident."
I am not an architect. I am not a designer. I do however, know a surrender when I see one. (You would almost think the French are involved) The current proposal is not bold, it is not innovative, it does not make a statement, it does not move forward. To call it a compromise is to give it a complement it does not deserve. We should probably rebuild the complex essentially as it was. If not, how about we build a base large enough for a 2 million square foot mall, a bigger parking garage and a more user friendly PATH station. On this we should build not two, but three tall buildings. Do they need to be the tallest on earth? No, they don't. But why not? Why should Malaysia (and soon China) have the world's tallest buildings? We should have them here because we are the leaders of the free world. Let's make the one in the middle 150 stories. The one of the left can be 120, and the one on the right can be 140. When seen from the statue of Liberty the new buildings would look like three big fingers. The middle one is tallerjust to give the rest of the world a piece of American attitude! Let's make one in the shape of a cylinder, one should be square, and one can be a triangle. Lets have refuge floors, extra staircases, fast elevators, extra strength girders, redundant sprinkler and fire protection. They can be built one at a time as the need arises. Let's make them models for high rise construction. The America I grew up in would want nothing less. Since the federal government has appropriated 21 Billion dollars, and the lease holders have collected 3.5 Billion in insurance proceeds, money is not a problem. Let's stop whining and fighting among ourselves and begin to build something for the ages. Those who died expect nothing less.
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