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Nine Principles for Rebuilding New York

New York’s core values must form the basis for the rebuilding of our city. In the wake of unimaginable loss, we should celebrate these core values and the diversity of New York, while creating a city that is fairer and more respectful of the environment.

Although much of the damage from the September 11 attacks was felt at ground zero and in Lower Manhattan, other significant impacts have reverberated far beyond the sixteen acres. People throughout the entire region lost loved ones and suffered from the economic effects of the attacks. Therefore, any redevelopment plan must take a citywide and regionwide approach and above all, must be accomplished through an open, inclusive and robust public process.

In the months since September 11, many civic organizations around New York have sprung into action and come together in an extraordinary manner. The following principles emerge from the work of five of these coalitions – Imagine New York, Labor Community Advocacy Network (LCAN), New York City Arts Coalition, New York New Visions, and Rebuild Downtown Our Town (R.Dot). These coalitions have each separately produced reports that have drawn upon the professional expertise of more than 400 organizational partners; public listening sessions; decades of community experience; and an ongoing, open and inclusive dialogue. While each of the coalitions had a substantially different process for arriving at its conclusions, the degree of unanimity in the conclusions of these initiatives is remarkable.

As a result, these groups jointly issue the following nine principles. We call upon the design teams and decision-makers to incorporate them into the final outcomes for the redevelopment of the site, the city, and the region. These fundamental principles come out of our conviction that any plan must commemorate the dead and meet the needs of the living.

1. Rebuild for Remembrance: The memorial should capture the magnitude of collective loss and should honor the victims and rescuers in an egalitarian way. The memorial process should be integrated with the planning process and should include all those affected by the attacks to create positive, reinforcing relationships between the memorial and its immediate surroundings. Following a broad and inclusive dialogue to determine what a memorial should convey and an incorporation of the memorial mission statement as drafted by the Families Advisory Council of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), an international competition should be held to develop a design for a memorial that reflects the themes that emerged from the dialogue and mission statement.

2. Rebuild for Jobs: Between 75,000 and 80,000 people lost their jobs because of the attacks, 60 percent of them low-wage workers. Rebuilding funds must be invested in New York’s human capital – the core of its competitive advantage – through job creation and job training programs that will help New Yorkers weather the current economic downturn, stimulate the economy, and help build a more diverse and stronger long-term economic base for the future. Such investment should at least equal funds spent on corporate retention.

3. Rebuild the Economy of the City and Region: Federal and state aid to rebuild the city’s economy should be channeled into both ground zero and Lower Manhattan, and also into new “central business districts” throughout the city and region. We must take advantage of the business community’s desire for a safer, multi-centered development pattern to bring growth to the parts of the city most in need of jobs and housing after 9/11. The financial and related industries for which Lower Manhattan is famous are critical to the economic health of the city. The best way to accommodate them and to let them grow is to link Lower Manhattan more effectively to a series of urban subcenters—downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, Jamaica, the Hub in the Bronx, Jersey City, and Newark. This will allow firms to move back-office work to other locations, and to maintain offices on different electric grids while being in physical proximity to one another.

4. Rebuild for Housing: New York desperately needs decent, affordable housing in Lower Manhattan and throughout the region. While the citywide housing problem cannot be solved in Lower Manhattan alone, Liberty Bonds should be combined with other public funds and mechanisms to support the development, conversion, and preservation of a substantial number of affordable housing units there. Liberty Bonds must not be used simply to spur luxury housing development. Housing development that serves a range of income levels–low, moderate, and high–will best serve the crucial goal of promoting diverse neighborhoods, which in turn will allow a true cross-section of New Yorkers to directly benefit from likely public investments in transportation, parks, and cultural facilities downtown.

5. Rebuild with Exemplary Design: The agencies, planners, architects, and private interests involved in the rebuilding of the WTC site and Lower Manhattan must strive for excellence in the design of all public and private spaces. Nothing short of aspiring to greatness will satisfy the people of New York, America, and the world. Achieving excellence requires a planning and design process with clearly articulated values, goals, and lines of responsibility.

6. Rebuild for Sustainability: To protect the environment and safeguard human health, the World Trade Center site should become a model of development that addresses ecological as well as economic and social concerns. Buildings should be energy efficient, provide access to natural light and include green areas in public spaces and on roofs. The creation of a transportation hub in Lower Manhattan will encourage people to walk and use public transportation, reducing reliance on cars. Environmental burdens from the rebuilding should not be imposed on other communities.

7. Rebuild for Transportation: Significant investment in improved mass transit connections to other centers in New York City and the region is of crucial importance to the revitalization of downtown. Improved connections will enhance Lower Manhattan’s desirability as a place for businesses, institutions, and residents to locate, as well as facilitate the growth of other centers in the city and region. New York must not waste the opportunity to improve, rather than just replace, the mass transit links that are the core of Lower Manhattan’s viability as a central business district.

8. Rebuild for Community: Lower Manhattan should be a thriving, 24-hour community for people of all income levels, with businesses, homes, schools, shops, restaurants, parks, cultural facilities and resources for children. We should take advantage of 270° waterfront views and implement a managed streets plan to improve circulation and integrate Lower Manhattan communities with each other. Redevelopment of Lower Manhattan should take into consideration measures to improve pedestrian, vehicle, and transit connections between TriBeCa, Battery Park City, Chinatown, the Financial District, and the Civic Center.

9. Rebuild for Culture: Cultural activities will provide a powerful magnet to attract residents and provide jobs, as well as facilitate considerable economic activity. Rebuilding and recovery should create new opportunities to expand, strengthen and protect the diversity of the Lower Manhattan arts and cultural community, including support for artists, cultural incubators, rehearsal and studio space, and appropriate new arts and cultural facilities.

Coalition Signers:
Imagine New York
Labor Community Advocacy Network to Rebuild New York (LCAN)
New York City Arts Coalition
New York New Visions
Rebuild Downtown Our Town (R.Dot)

*With the participation of Citizens Union Foundation and the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED).