A panel of officials defended the pace of the Lower Manhattan rebuilding process Tuesday night at the first of four town hall meetings commemorating the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
“The most important thing is to do this right,” said Governor George Pataki's Chief of Staff John Cahill. “It’s extraordinarily difficult and complex to rebuild. That’s the challenge that we face, but we are going to be steadfast and get it done.”
NY1 anchor John Schiumo hosted the one-hour public discussion on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site with many of the principals involved in the effort. The events was held at Pace University in downtown Manhattan and open to the public.
Panelists interviewed during the first half of the town hall included LMDC Chairman Kevin Rampe, Port Authority Vice Chairman Charles Gargano, and Cahill.
“They don’t see steel coming from the ground, but they will see it next year and plenty of it,” said Gargano, who added that some New Yorkers might object to the rapid speed of development at the WTC site in the near future.
"We want to heal that wound physically and emotionally and we want to heal it quickly," said Rampe, who said what is most important is that those involved in the rebuilding process "get it right" for future generations.
"Getting it right" amounted to a mantra among the panelists, who all insisted that slow decision-making process has allowed members of the public to help shape the rebuilding of the 16-acre site, which will include a memorial built on the footprints of the towers.
In the second half of the meeting, the site's Master Planner Daniel Libeskind and Memorial Designer Michael Arad weighed in on the design challenges involved in the rebuilding process.
When asked how he felt about the changes made to his design since it was selected from among several submissions, Arad emphasized that the process is about a public need and not a personal one.
“I don’t think it’s about me feeling good about the process,” said Arad. “It has not been an easy process — probably the most difficult in my life.”
Later Arad added that despite the challenges, he will not tire of the process.
“I consider it my obligation to spend every minute of my time trying to find a way to address those concerns,” he said.
Many decisions remain sticking points in the rebuilding process, particularly when it comes to the memorial. At the moment, officials have decided to list the names of the victims randomly — a decision supported by 52 percent of NY1 viewers who participated in a non-scientific Snap Poll during the live town hall.
There had originally been some talk of separating the names of the firefighters, police officers and Port Authorities officers who died in the Twin Towers from the names of the civilians who perished, but that idea has since been abandoned.
Another idea being floated, however, is whether to include the insignia of the appropriate department or agency next to the names of the first responders included on the list of the dead. Arad said he agreed in theory with the concept, despite objections from some who argue that it creates a hierarchy of loss.
“I do not think this insignia demotes any [superiority] over any of the other names on the memorial,” said Arad, adding that to include the insignia would honor the sacrifice made by those first responders "not only on that day, but on others."
The town hall series will continue on Wednesday, when NY1 anchor Kristen Shaughnessy hosts a discussion on continuing concerns over the health of residents and responders. Scheduled panelists include attorney David Worby, who represents thousands of ailing responders; Dr. Jacqueline Moline of the WTC Medical Monitoring Team at Mount Sinai Medical Center; Dr. Kamau Kokayi from the Olive Leaf Wellness Center; and John Jay College professor Gerald Markowitz, co-author of "Are We Ready? Public Health Since 9/11."
On Thursday, NY1 reporter Budd Mishkin will host a discussion on the fine line between effective policing and violating civil rights. Scheduled panelists include former NYCLU Director Norman Siegel; Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization; Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission; and Richard Pildes, professor of law at NYU School of Law.
Finally, on Friday NY1 anchor Roma Torre will host a discussion on the popular arts and 9/11. Scheduled panelists include Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theatre; John Hoffman, Vice President of Documentaries at HBO; Catharine Stimpson, NYU Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; and David Friend, Vanity Fair's editor of creative development and author of "Watching The World Change: The Stories Behind The Images Of 9/11."
Members of the public can reserve seats to attend each of the town meetings by logging on to www.pace.edu
or by calling (212) 379-3447.