New York Voices; 205; History and Politics of Rebuilding Ground Zero
Were New York Voices is made possible by the members of 13 additional funding provided by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Norman and Rosita Winston foundation. New York is not about what used to be. We've never really celebrated it just New York is about the future it's about human potential an urban potential we want that to always be the story of New York. Some newspapers are editorializing this fast but what's going to be done there has to stand for what we hope 100 200 years more. Why Russia. I think our fellow Americans like us much more now. But they're wrong.
And because she's not really I still like to fire New York. Voice in New York Voices Hello I'm Raphael and this edition of New York Voices will examine the history and politics of ground zero when the World Trade Center collapsed it left a void in lower Manhattan. What will go up in its place and who will decide in a moment we'll hear from historian Kenneth Jackson about that. But we begin with a look at New York's historic harbor which drove the city's early growth and which on September 11th became a principal avenue to safety. Thanks to the courage of a handful of New Yorkers I'm Paula mico. I meet supervisor Morey Construction here in New York Waterway. I built the docks for the ferries on the morning of September 11 I was working right here and we hawk and
looking south so a very large cloud of black smoke right at the World Trade Center the first thought that came to my mind was evacuation. The tremendous amount of people that I don't have to be removed from Manhattan and we're in the business of moving people and that's what we do and we do it pretty well I think when you are faced with an emergency like that you just go into a special frame of mind that says I got to do my job even better than ever. I've hopped on the first ferry and at that point the first building was just falling. So we're heading into Manhattan into a big white cloud of dust. The captain had to maneuver the boat in by radar into a world financial ferry terminal. Visibility was probably around 100 to 150 feet because of the dust. Many people were choking their faces white smoke at that point the police and the fire department were there and asked us to shut down the ferry terminal because they were concerned with gas leaks and I mean I don't I don't hear that at all but I have had a bit of a garage.
We get started in high school across the street with great with proximal we had about nine or 10 votes right at World Financial Center just waiting for a load onto a ferry to move them back in. I rounded the battery on a ferry to pick up a lot of people at the Wall Street Pier went around the other side of downtown it was at that point that the second tower went down. Kind of. They came right in here and I laid down right here along this wall until the dust cleared. This was actually this apartment we have to move further north from here an hour or two after the towers collapsed. The city shut down all of its transportation systems at bridges and tunnels were closed. The subways and commuter trains buses were all closed. Really the ferries were the only way
out of New York especially for people who needed to get back to New Jersey. I stood here up on the wall. I work here off the wall and we took people up over the top of the wall and then lowered them down on to the ladder as the ferry captain pushed the boat to keep it in place. We were still about unloaded on the Jersey side come back just keep going back and forth. We used everything we had. We have 24 vessels and 24 of them are operating people. Some of the boats were used to evacuate injured to the Trade Centers and most of them were used for just regular folks. I know that we evacuated 160000 people that day. People were lined up for 10 or 15 blocks in each direction on the west side highway waiting for boats. I believe that day in Lower Manhattan in the days to follow everyone it felt they had something to offer and did what they could at that point. On the morning of the 11th my job had needed to be done and
you just go and you do it. If you don't think it don't think and that's the way that's the way the employees of this company would train you make a decision. What can you do that day to make a difference. And that's and that's the only thing. New York Harbor had historical relevance long before September 11. I met with New York historian Kenneth Jackson in lower Manhattan to talk about that history and how it will impact redevelopment. Jackson noted that from the early days when Dutch trading ships landed here connecting the old world with a new right up to the rise of the South Street Seaport New York's harbor was the engine of the city's economic growth. But with the building of the Interstate Highway System and the emergence of air travel Lower Manhattan was overshadowed by midtown and the World Trade Center was created in part to re-establish its dominance. The attack on the World Trade Center is a real challenge to New York comparable really to the challenge that it faced after World War Two or let's say in the
1960s. Can it withstand the competition from midtown Manhattan or for that matter the suburbs or for that matter the rest of the country of the world. What Europe has done so well in the last century is to completely reinvent itself really in the last half century to being a financial services a legal center of the service industry. Well that's what this is this is the service and this is it all in one place and you can see at all these buildings where people are working and whatever else people may think about New York this is an unofficial place to make money people strive their work heard they get their energy from each other there's always been a lot of hustle and bustle in New York. You spread it all out to leave something you want to sense New York is always a little bit different. And I think I think the world needs it I think the nation needs it because so often we're kind of homogenized you know Seattle doesn't look very different from Miami. If you get inside a mall or a corporate office park but with New York for all of its grip and for
all of its noise and for all of its one bites the rudeness and stuff like this is something different about New York. You know Professor we just walked five minutes from Battery Park to where we are now say Paul's Chapel. Now the first 150 years of New York City Bedworth New York City. Originally people had to walk everywhere that knows we think of horses and wagons but only the very rich had all the carrot. So for 99 percent of it we're going to walk so everything is jammed together. More 200 years ago than today. So from 16 to 25 and when the city is first founded more or less until 1775 when of course St. Paul's chapel behind us is already here. That's one hundred and fifty years. This is one of the two or three most important cities in what's the United States. And yet the city has only grown that
little bit. Hundred fifty years a matter of a few blocks. And it's a successful center. We are here in the church graveyard of one of the very few places and arguably the only place in lower Manhattan that has not changed. In 250 years it's here when George Washington is inaugurated as president of states and he comes here after taking the oath of office when the city burns down in 1776 and 1770 this on the edge of town so it doesn't burn with the rest of the city. So here it is the same in the graveyard of course is the same and yet it's surrounded by change. It's amazing that it wasn't destroyed by the World Trade Center was right next to it it could have fallen on the church and destroyed it but it just missed it. You were talking earlier about how important the World Trade Center. It used to be there. How important it was for the revitalization of this area when it began to wane if there was a history of the World Trade Center. First of all it led or helped lead to a complete revitalization of lower Manhattan Lower Manhattan which was in steep decline by the
1960s relative to the suburbs relative to Dallas relative to midtown. Well in the 1980s and 1990s you get enormous construction boom and Battery Park City along Water Street and everywhere else and you could see that the decision to build the church Chase Manhattan Bank by David Rockefeller and the World Trade Center by the Port Authority were the catalyst which said We believe in lower Manhattan we're making giant investments down here. This place is going to work the stock exchange is going to stay. This will become and remain the financial center of the world and by that huge public investment room it's a public investor Chessman hands of private investment. The two of those I think really in a sense remade lower Manhattan and made it a great success in the 1990s. What would have happened if we didn't have those 10 million square feet of office space that are there now. Well we needed them in the 1990s we needed every single square foot. Now the irony is we're back now in the 1970s where we've lost it all at the same
time as a depression. You know so now there are a lot of critics as you said about the World Trade Center particular by the twin towers that it was too huge that it was inhuman. Do you share those critics. I must say I never I didn't love the World Trade Center. I thought it was out of scale. I thought the architecture was a little I don't know but now whatever. But more importantly I felt like it didn't connect to the city in the sense that most of the tall buildings in New York City the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building or the Woolworth Building opened out into the street. There is a lot there's a coffee shop there's a cafe there's a shoe store that's part of the skyscraper that connects to the sidewalk. The World Trade Center really didn't do that that's more like a shopping mall with a hundred story buildings on top of it. So I don't think I like it. But you know I often think that it's like a friend or somebody you didn't think you really cared about them and suddenly they decide to move or they die and suddenly you realize that you were too hard to add to were adding
something to your life. I think we feel that way about the part of the World Trade Center that. You feel a hole there's a giant hole in your heart now so you feel it almost emotionally that this part of the city is gone. I think also you feel it as a on the skyline when you're far away from it. There's something missing here in New York is not about what used to be. We've never really celebrated it says New York is about the future it's about human potential and urban potential and we want that to always be the story of New York and so we've got to reinvent it we've got to welcome and accept change. We've got to understand that really New York is not about graciousness It's not about ease it's not about beauty. It's about efficiency it's about competition it's about achievement. It's about it's about reaching the potential for greatness that's within us all. When will we stop. Stop hearing the jackhammers in the building. When will this be rebuilt. Well I think 10 years from now this is going to be one of the finest places the United States I think it's going to be
wonderful I think it's going attract millions of tourists. I think it's going to be among the most desirable office space anywhere. Think it'll have fountains and I think you'll have streets going through it again and and find stores I think will be a celebration. And I think I have terrific transportation connections. Professor 100 years from now how will people look back at the events of September 11. I think that there are two ways to look at this. One is the way I predict that will happen and that is that this is an isolated event that terrorism will not continue on a grand scale that Americans will not live in fear about bombs going off and rather like epidemic disease or fire or water shortage or many other problems that the city dealt with it will deal with terrorism. But there's another possibility too and that is that that if in fact the terrorism continues or we continue to subsidize the
suburbs or other things that Americans could continue their move out of the cities and we could see that September 11 2001 had a significant impact in the sense it was really kind of a a nail in the coffin of great cities in this country and that kind of high density tall buildings. When I was an idea that lasted a hundred years and for whatever reason those 20th century types like it and now it's over. Beyond the sense of pride and guardianship that comes of being a New Yorker you can tell a lot about a person based on their answer to the question why do you live here. I live here because of how I aspire for the world to be and they are not because it possesses everything that I admire in a person or anything here in this segment we asked New Yorkers some known and some lesser known how being a New Yorker has changed in the aftermath of September 11.
The outer damage is much less than people wanted to admit and why the outer damage in the sense that from that very morning one of the things that was startling was if you were downtown and walked up town when you were north of 14th Street life remain the same. But at the same time it seemed to me that of course the the damage done to sort of our interior selves to damage done to our sense of what the city was in our world it was immense and may be maybe not capable of being healed not even in our lifetimes E.B. White wrote in 50 years ago after the Second World War with the threat for the first time of nuclear annihilation hovering over cities everywhere you know growth of the city for the. Theres an intimation of mortality for the first time in New York a feeling that the. A flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of DC road could bring this island fantasy to an end and crumble the towers burn the bridges. Cremate the millions and I think that in a horrible way that feeling of
mortality has been refreshing. I liken what happened and I feel where a favorite relative passes away and all of the family has to come together. They don't like each other. They very rarely see each other and then they realize that you know we're not so bad as a family. So before they leave they say you know we ought to get together at times other than you know and thereby say yeah that's right. And then they go away and they don't come together again until somebody else that I think being here during September 11th and being in the middle of all the screaming and the crying you know grabbing strangers on the street and just sobbing. I think everything's things have changed quite a bit I think prior to the 11th if you would extend kind of for somebody on the street people to kind of look at you like this guy is kind of weird.
And now it's kind of like OK thank you. You know there's a lot more a lot of thank you. Now people are New Yorkers. You hear a plane everyone looks at people now say to each other as a foreigner. No expert on this you think that's true. Well I know like I do that we've become like i don't even know what you would call a person would be like you know that but you know now New Yorkers were judging this is really a victory for us. This is a great you know the terrorists haven't won there in our heads. That's in our heads. I think people are nuttier if Truly I'm There's a woman the workers are Yorkers there's a woman in my building's tenuous hold on reality in the best of days. And she I went down an elevator with her once and you think I knew this was going to happen because I knew it was going to happen. But I got out and I said you know next time give us a heads up. But but but. Do you think the
view the perception of New York has changed for New Yorkers. I think that you mean by by our fellow Americans I think our fellow Americans like us much more now. But they're wrong because she's not really a stay like it's a fire at the beginning. There were like a lot of sympathy and wanted to help New York because that was the in thing to do you know. And now but at the same time I hurt and I felt a lot of like oh good that they happen to New Yorkers because they're we are foreigners most of us because I come from the south. There are quite a few people that feel that New Yorkers deserved. I mean I know it sounds really harsh but in the back of their mind and their kind of race is you know this is full of homosexuals full of you know minorities that are trying to get a free ride and derelicts and perverts and I know and I've heard things where they feel that you
know we've brought this on ourselves you know. Do you believe do you think you do. When you're aware of it is a sense the line level. Even each other when I was there was a you can feel extreme particularly in the movies is the last question was expressed by your feelings about you about like two minutes. It kind of dropped the rest of the country. It feels like guarding something only I hate you I just went out there has been absolute rock but it is you know guarding something very very special. So we are known in New York for being grumpy and for being pushy and for walking too fast and so on and so forth. Do you think now in the wake of 9/11 that we should continue to be known for that I am
not interested in the city. Everybody gets in your face. You know it is no longer I have a certain amount of privacy and anonymity but that sensitivity which I think we have now that we didn't necessarily have before. I think that will be with us for a long time. I think New Yorkers have always actually been much more concerned than are there in a crisis you know they have a kind of benign indifference on a daily basis but when the chips are down they tend to fly to each other. But I think that that's really really increased a sense that a sense of the fragility of life and the vulnerability that we all feel it can happen to you. And you have two billion dollars they have put a man in a corner with $2 and it brings us on the same level. That's what's been humans who was the great baseball manager who said when you know he lost a close World Series I was able to sleep a scar. And he said you know what's wrong with scars. What
happens to him when you have terrible wounds or not that they heal but that they scar. Right. And scars are a sign of life scars are as powerful a sign of life. Why process as our unblemished skin perfection. The rebuilding of Lower Manhattan is to say the least politically charged to get a handle on the process and the players. I spoke to Michael Tomasky political columnist for New York magazine. Mike I wonder if you could help us out and tell us who the players are who are going to be making the decisions that will determine what's going to go up in the place of the World Trade Center. It's a complicated flow chart that could rival something out of the Pentagon but basically it boils down to this. The most important player is Governor Pataki Governor McGreevey of New Jersey has been often overlooked but very important player here because the site his own of course by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It's a bi state agency that's supposed to oversee the transportation and commerce needs of the New York New Jersey region but it owns the site on which the World Trade Center sat.
Finally the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is going to be a player here. That's an agency that was put together last fall by Governor Pataki and then Mayor Giuliani who each named appointees to that board. Now Mayor Bloomberg has named appointees to that board as well and the head of that is a man named John Whitehead a banker and a former Reagan State Department official with all these people involved. Doesn't that seem like a recipe for disaster. There's precedent to suggest that this stew pot of interests might not work out so well. However I'm kind of encouraged because they've said three or four things that indicate to me they're thinking along appropriate lines. Number one they don't want to use public money to finance the development of private office space. That was what the World Trade Center was. It's kind of ironic that the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center as the symbol of capitalism because in many ways it was really a symbol of state socialism. Another thing they talked about is that I think they want to keep the scale of the development within an appropriate reason there. The third thing I would say is that they seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on
transit. And one of their first priorities at least in recent press reports has been that they'd like to put together a transit hub in lower Manhattan on the order of seven billion dollars and that's and that's a transit is what the Port Authority is supposed to be doing. That's that's very much a good thing. Finally of course there's the. The memorial which is the most compelling emotional issue I guess too to a lot of people and I think that they have spoken appropriately about the scope of what the memorial will be and how much space allotted and so forth. You talk about the development of the World Trade Center and the building of the Twin Towers What lessons can we learn from that experience. Well I think two major lessons. I think the first lesson is that is that you know public agencies should not undertake this kind of development. Private developers shouldn't take this kind of development for private office space. The second lesson I think that can
be taken from the World Trade Center experience is that the process of deciding what gets built here should be more open than that process was. But is there a chance that this process could be too open. Some people are saying that what we really need is a Robert Moses one voice that will make sure that this thing gets done. I disagree with the people who suggest that. Sure it can be to open anything can be to anything right. But I don't think that I don't think that is the direction of a Robert Moses the way we want to go I mean Robert Moses. Did some good things for this city but he did a lot of things to this city that I think if if he had been operating under a more open process would've been done differently. And I think better for all of us. For example he built the Van Wyck Expressway intentionally with a narrow medium so that they couldn't put a train to the plane. I think that's something that we might have thought the better of. In the late 1940s and early 950 when the Van Wyck Expressway was being built if there had been a
more open process and if more and more than one man were allowed to make decisions in this case literally the whole world is watching. Are you optimistic that that will keep backroom politics at bay. I think it will I mean I think they know that the public scrutiny of this is pretty great and the public interest in it is quite intense and I get the impression from John Whitehead whom I've spoken to only once but at some length. I get the impression from him that he understands that and that he wants to do something that really converts the character of that neighborhood into something altogether different and that's innovative both from an architectural standpoint and from a planning standpoint. And. At least that's what he says he wants to do for New Yorkers who may not be completely up to date of everything that happened. What is it they should be looking out for to make sure that the process is going the right direction. I think it should move slowly. There's a lot of pressure for it to go fast. Some politicians are saying we need to do this quickly. Some newspapers are editorializing we
do this fast. What's going to be down there has to stand for what we hope 100 200 years more. Therefore why Russia. If we don't have to have something by September we don't have to have a plan in place by November they don't have to be digging up the earth by next January. This needs to take time. We really have to do this right. It's really got to see it and it has to be thought over by the best minds and really looked at closely so I think if it moves too fast I think that's a bad sign and that's it for this edition of New York Voices. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next time.
- New York Voices
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- Thirteen WNET
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- A walk with historian Ken Jackson, president of the New York Historical Society. Jackson explores the history of lower Manhattan and the current challenges of rebuilding New York. Magazine Michael Tomasky analyzes the political winds of change. Arthur Imperatore, President of the New York Waterways, discusses rescue efforts on Setpember 11th and ferry services, then and now. Author Rebecca Carroll, filmmaker Ric Burns, Reverend Calvin Buts, comic Kate Clinton, New York writer Adam Gopnik and photographer Fran Lebowitz
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- New York Voices is a news magazine made up of segments featuring profiles and interviews with New Yorkers talking about the issues affecting New York.
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Producing Organization: Thirteen WNET
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Thirteen - New York Public Media (WNET)
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- MLA: “New York Voices; 205; History and Politics of Rebuilding Ground Zero.” 2002-09-17. Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 1, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-75-54kkwrd1>.
- APA: New York Voices; 205; History and Politics of Rebuilding Ground Zero. Boston, MA: Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-75-54kkwrd1