Thursday, November 29, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) With the holiday season under way, more than 1,000 people who live in lower Manhattan still cannot go home because of damage from the World Trade Center attack. Many others can’t bear to return.
“It’s tough to look out the windows at those cranes working in the fog,” said Emmy Neidick, who has lived in Battery Park City for 11 years. “It’s eerie. Things somehow normalize, but you just can’t stay.”
She and her husband returned to their apartment several weeks ago, but moved out on Sunday. They are moving into their cabin in Spring Glen, a two-hour drive from Manhattan.
Others haven’t given up.
Michael Davenport, 27, lives in the Gateway Plaza section of Battery Park City, in the only residential building still declared uninhabitable almost three months after the twin towers went down in a cloud of flames and dust. He was laid off from his engineering job after September 11.
Mr. Davenport has been dividing his time between a hotel he pays for with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a spare room he found through a charity.
“They say we’ll be able to go back home on December 21. I hope so,” he said.
Battery Park City, on the southwestern tip of Manhattan, is an area of leafy parks and a bench-lined boardwalk along the Hudson River. Holiday decorations are up, but the atmosphere is anything but festive so near to ground zero. Police stand guard, and the smell of burned concrete, steel and plastic hangs heavy.
“The air stinks and I get angry when I see all the tourists gawking,” Mrs. Neidick said. “Once I just yelled out at them, ‘What are you looking for, blood, dust?’ I couldn’t help it. It’s all just too emotional.”
The Gateway Plaza complex of six buildings is across the street from the trade center site.
About 500 of the 1,712 apartments had windows blown out, said Richard LeFrak, president of the Lefrak Organization, a part-owner of the complex. Workers had to carefully clear some apartments of trade center debris.
Ed Cortese, a spokesman for the Lefrak Organization, said most tenants will be back in their homes by mid-December. A few sections are expected to take four to six more months to repair.
Tenants interviewed this week said they were told by complex employees that about 40 percent of the 4,000 residents were planning to leave.
Mr. Cortese could not confirm that. “There are a lot of people who are sitting on the fence,” he said.
The moving trucks parked around the central courtyard last weekend were for tenants moving out, not in.
Jeffrey Erber, who moved back recently but has begun house hunting in New Jersey, said what gets to him is the makeshift shrine, which stands like a wall between his home and ground zero.
“The teddy bears and notes and flowers and pictures are right there on the boardwalk. It’s heartbreaking to have to walk out the door and see that every day,” he said.
Mitchell Kikoen, 48, and Donna Heffernan, 47, neighbors for years, stood outside their building recently, discussing their prospects. They were unsure whether they would be allowed back for the holidays and whether they would return if given the chance.
On September 11, Miss Heffernan was at her mother’s funeral. Miss Heffernan left the church to find the trade towers in ruins. She had nothing to wear for two weeks but her funeral clothes.
“It’s emotionally tough,” she said. “After all, this is my back yard.”

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