Since the attacks and subsequent collapse of the World Trade Centers in Lower Manhattan last fall, area residents, business owners, real estate professionals, developers, and concerned citizens' groups have been doing their best to navigate the welter of legal, social, and civil issues brought up in the tragedy's wake. Even before the full extent of the damage done on September 11th was known, downtown residents feared for their lives, their health, the safety of their children, and the fate of their homes. Business owners and those who worked in Lower Manhattan wondered if they'd be shut down, either by new attacks, government orders, or sheer lack of business.
Even now, months later, the questions are still like onions; peel away one layer, and dozens more present themselves in an ever-tightening, ever-narrowing succession of issues until one can barely recall the original question. Problems to solve range from revitalizing the entire economic and cultural fabric of the lower quarter of Manhattan to the seemingly mundane question of whether prospective co-op and condo buyers are still bound to the contracts they signed before the towers fell and everything changed, or how displaced downtown residents should go about dusting their apartments. All the questions raised since September 11th are valid and of great importance to those asking them: at this point, it's really a matter of scale.
As the last of the debris is cleared from Ground Zero and most residents of Lower Manhattan returned to their homes, city, state, and federal governments - as well as citizen-led activist groups - are turning their attention to the question of, "What Next?" What will be done with the 16 acres of battered land that used to host the icons of free trade and American commerce?
Obviously, whatever re-development plans are finally adopted, a memorial to those who lost their lives on September 11th will be the cornerstone upon which the new Lower Manhattan rests. But how to honor the victims and their families, while still allowing for the economic development so crucial to New York City's re-emergence as the financial and cultural Capital of the World?
On May 23rd, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), in cooperation with the Port Authority, the Mayor's office, and Pace University hosted a public hearing to discuss the memorial-vs.-commerce issue, as well as a host of other concerns. The idea behind the hearing - the first of five such events planned in the next few months - was to provide the general public with a forum in which to express their views, opinions, thoughts, and criticisms of how the various government agencies involved in resuscitating downtown Manhattan have handled the job.