- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

NEW YORK Even as the digging continues and the ashes smolder, a debate has begun about what kind of structure should rise in place of the twin towers of the World Trade Center that were swept away in lower Manhattan last week.
For residents in every part of the city's life, rebuilding the World Trade Center has become tantamount to showing the flag, sending a message to the world that American endurance is alive and well.
But what kind of structure and, more specifically, its height are questions facing a cross section of the city's powerful interests, artistic as well as commercial, political as well as civic.
"When it comes time to build, we should build in our own time, for New Yorkers who come after us not for the Taliban," said Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Arts Society, one of the cultural and city planning groups to be involved in the rebuilding. "This is like grieving for a loved one before you find a replacement."
Many New Yorkers have never been fond of the Trade Center's design, especially when compared with the stateliness of the Empire State Building or the art nouveau grace of the Chrysler Building. So in this flush of patriotism are calls to build bigger and better, and a growing sentiment for a building that reflects the New York of a new millennium.
Those who want to reconstruct the towers are led by private developer Larry Silverstein, who in July acquired a 99-year lease on them from the Port Authority for $3.5 billion.
He is determined to rebuild, and he foresees four 50-story towers in place of the WTC.
"To watch them collapse upon themselves was so staggering," he said, "We have an obligation to re-create what was there."
The politicians have weighed in on the debate. Democratic mayoral candidate Peter F. Vallone is expected to introduce today a proposal to create a seven-member commission with "broad and sweeping powers" that would largely determine the use of vacant land.
The mayor would head the body and appoint its members to five-year terms.
Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Green called the plan "ambiguous" and, in an apparent effort to upstage Mr. Vallone, yesterday called for establishment of a "reconstruction authority" that would answer to the governor as well as the mayor. New York's mayoral primary elections are scheduled for Tuesday.
Rep. Vito J. Fossella, New York Republican, sees the creation of "some strong symbol of American freedom" at the site, along with a memorial to the dead. "It should rise tall again," he said.
Alan Ritchie, of Philip Johnson-Alan Ritchie Architects whose skyscrapers dot the city, favors building new towers, but not duplicating the old ones.
"Instead of having a free hand, we must be aware of practical issues such as handicap access, security, and the height of the buildings. How do you evacuate buildings of this size? Height has always been in demand, but we must give thought to this when we design," he said.
For commercial interests, keeping businesses in New York and sorting out their problems will be as tangled a process as removing the wreckage itself.
Carl Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, said the 17-acre World Trade Center site was the engine of lower Manhattan's economy, and therefore the first priority should be to aid the 14,000 businesses crippled by the disaster and to relocate those that are displaced.
"It is hallowed ground," he added, "and some form of memorial must absolutely be included."
In a poll taken by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, 46 percent support rebuilding the twin towers; 25 percent favor the erection of smaller office buildings; and 23 percent prefer a memorial park.
The hope is that whatever replaces the WTC should be built with the same community spirit that New Yorkers have experienced since the disaster.
"It's no longer just real estate," Mr. Barwick said. "Now it's real estate, and a symbol, and a graveyard for 5,000 people."

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