An Open Letter to the LMDC (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) in response to the proposals unveiled 7/16/02

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Dear Sirs et Mesdames-

While I commend the obvious effort put forth by all concerned in producing these six proposed plans for the WTC site, I must write you to register my strong disappointment in the results. My reaction is based on the following core emotional responses and beliefs:

There is not nearly enough variance between choices. The plans imply a selection process that somewhere acquired an inflexible and relatively bland set of 'bounds' which were not the result of functional constraints of the requirements (such as the rail hub, office space footage, etc.) The sheer similarity of these six options resonates strongly of an attempt to either avoid offending anyone and/or an attempt to dictate key features of the eventual design through the Magician's Choice.

There is no plan which offers anywhere near the presence the Towers had in the New York skyline. If we permit the 'new' WTC to sink below the uncompromising statement of daring and enterprise displayed by the sheer scale of the original towers, we have allowed this cowardly attack on our nation to serve to further hasten the 'homogenization of America' as all our urban structures sink to a 'comfortable average size' and composition. We cannot allow this to happen.

Make no mistake, this reconstruction is not simply a 'Lower Manhattan development project.' The eventual structures placed here will serve as the United States' response to the world and the forces which conspired to destroy the originals. A blander, shorter, less striking edifice serves only to kowtow to those who feel the U.S. is too arrogant, too selfish, too craven, and too weak to defend its ideals in the world arena.

As commentary by several workers on the Pentagon reconstruction emphasized, their unstinting and heroic efforts to restore that building to full form and function (in less than a year!) are nothing short of the efforts displayed by Americans in wartimes past, pressing to make sure their nation is not embarrassed or failed by their efforts. Surely New York City, as the target of this horror and one of the biggest symbols of the U.S., can do no less!

This brings up my third point, which is more difficult to deal with.

The demands of the families of the dead for ever more 'memorial space' and acreage must be resisted. While I in no way would ever presume to comprehend or belittle their suffering, I would ask how they want their loved ones remembered...through a park which sits quietly where there was once a bustling business district? Or through a proud and powerful reconstruction of the area which the original towers made such a crossroads of the world? I myself must lean for the latter. This is not to say that acreage cannot be set aside for memorials; indeed, it would be churlish to suggest otherwise. However, there is ample space at the WTC site to provide for memorials without compromising the structural use of the site for the building of New York's newest entrant into the realm of Superpower Architecture.

In sum, ladies and gentlemen, I urge you, please! Think carefully on what will follow the towers. While they were not necessarily pretty, and were in many ways dysfunctional, the act of their destruction has set a context for the rebuilding of the site. We cannot judge what will follow them without carefully considering how they will appear in the eyes not only of the families and the insurance companies, but how well the new construction will represent our Nation and the ideals it represents. Ideals, I may add, that were the direct target of the attack, and which will consequently be characterized by our response.

Thank you for your time and attention.

The Custodian yes, I used my real name in the email!
Born and raised, 111th st. and Broadway

Update: (7/20/02) Well, I'm not alone. CNN is reporting that during a 'town meeting' in New York City, quote,
"Half of the approximately 4,000 people who voted on the six proposals rated four as poor and expressed only mild approval for the other two plans."

Choice comments and feedback from the 4,000 participants include:

  • "It looks like Albany." (CNN noted that this was not a compliment.)
  • "(Some)...urged that new, more ambitious, more monumental designs be submitted."
  • Concerns were expressed that the plans do not suitably 'revitalize' the downtown area, being simply yet more antiseptic 'closed after 7pm' office and high-end retail space.