Apr 08, 2002

'Go, But Go Slow' In Lower Manhattan Rebuild Says Report From Civic Alliance Citizens' Forum

08 APRIL, 2002

Over 600 New Yorkers also say to memorialize courage of rescue workers and 'everyday people' killed in 9/11 attack

Lower Manhattan should be rebuilt but "decisions made on rebuilding and the memorial should move slowly enough to allow appropriate reflection, grieving" and the public's ongoing participation says the final report issued by The Civic Alliance To Rebuild Downtown New York from its February 7th "Listening To The City" citizens' forum.

The text of the full report is available here [PDF format]

Further, the forum's over 600 participants agreed that any memorial erected at the World Trade Center site should honor the "individual victims" and the innocence, strength, diversity and courage of the rescue workers and the "everyday people" killed on September 11th.

The Civic Alliance, a coalition of over 85 business, community and civic groups including the Regional Plan Association, the New York University Wagner School of Public Service and NYU School of Law, and New School University's Milano Graduate School, is convening a series of citizens' forums as a means for the general public to influence in a real way the recovery and rebuilding process. The initial gathering of February 7th allowed participants to discuss and vote on preliminary guiding principles for rebuilding and the essence of a memorial, and the report of those findings has been presented to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to help guide its planning efforts.

Arthur Fried

"The participants of the first meeting came from all walks of life - downtown residents and workers, families of victims and survivors, emergency and rescue workers, business and property owners, interested citizens and community leaders," said Arthur J. Fried, executive director of the NYU Wagner School's Center for Excellence in New York City Governance.

Fried said, "These people came together and forged a common vision of the values and principles of rebuilding that represent the aspirations, memories and pride of New York and the metropolitan region."

"What emerged was a remarkable consensus on the ways to transform Lower Manhattan into the world's first great 21st Century urban space while at the same time creating a powerful memorial integrated into the very fabric of downtown," said Robert D. Yaro, president of the RPA and a convener of the Civic Alliance.

Some of the other key findings of the February 7th meeting regarding the future of downtown Manhattan are:

  • a consensus that Lower Manhattan should be rebuilt as a "vibrant, 24-hour mixed use community with additional affordable housing. One participant said that the area should be "a real New York neighborhood having diverse features - residential, small and big businesses, stores [and] parks."
  • many participants favored the creation of a transportation hub to make better connections between different types of mass transit, and better connect the different areas of the New York region.
  • the participants called for the restoration or improvement of basic services locally such as post offices, libraries and parking facilities, as well as the addition of a greater number of new cultural institutions - a "museum mile" including outdoor concerts, public arts projects and a major cultural institution such as the NYC Opera or the United Nations.
  • a widespread concern for the continuing impact of the attack on communities of color, specifically the difficulties still faced by undocumented aliens without ready access to relief funds and to the nearby immigrant communities such as Chinatown.
  • the need to create a memorial for the victims of 9/11 was a common thread of the forum and the participants said whatever form a memorial takes it should celebrate "courage, sacrifice, resiliency and altruism" and specifically honor the bravery of the rescue workers and the "good that was brought out in people."

The February 7th forum used "Electronic Town Meeting" tools developed by AmericaSpeaks, a nationally-recognized nonprofit that organizes similar large-scale civic forums, to gather this information. Guided by trained facilitators, participants gathered into groups of 10 to 12 people each to brainstorm and discuss their ideas. Results of each of several thematic conversations were collected by means of a network of wireless laptop computers and polling keypads, and the consensus of the entire 600 plus person group on many issues was tallied.

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