America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero
Ground Zero Profiles
Engineering the Clean-Up
Video Stories
Imagining the Future
About the Program

Leevi Kiil
Ethel Sheffer
Holly Leicht
Tom Rogér
Diana Balmori

'Given that September 11 was an attack on democracy…the response must be democratic'
Imagining the Future
Holly M. Leicht

Holly Leicht

The Max Protech Gallery Show

Visions of architects and artists for rebuilding at Ground Zero
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Town Hall Meeting

A forum for city resident on the site's future
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The Civic Alliance

A coalition of some 75 business, government, community and civic groups in New York and New Jersey, promoting the highest standards of urban design for the redevelopment of Ground Zero

New York New Visions

An alliance of 20 architecture, planning, and design organizations. Read their summary of findings.

Imagine New York

A civic coalition that gathered 47 innovative ideas for Lower Manhattan's future. Read their summary report here.

Max Protech Gallery: A New World Trade Center

A Web site tour of the Protech Gallery show

September's Mission

A Web site promoting the development of a World Trade Center memorial

Families of September 11

A coalition promoting the interests of 9/11 victims' families

Lower Manhattan Development Corporation

A group established by Governor George Pataki to help plan the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan. See their six plans.

Go Back to the Drawing Board

By Holly M. Leicht

Imagine New York, a project of the Municipal Art Society of New York and a coalition of civic partners, is the broadest public outreach project to solicit ideas for the future of the World Trade Center site and the recovery of communities across the region. Between March and May 2002, over 3,000 people participated in 230 public workshops throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to voice their visions for rebuilding, memorializing and recovering from the World Trade Center tragedy. Another 1,000 people submitted ideas online or by mail, resulting in a total of 19,000 ideas. Participants reconvened in June to condense this multitude of ideas into 49 visions that capture the public's hopes for the future of not just Lower Manhattan but the entire region.

In the aftermath of September 11, government officials, civic groups and design professionals quickly began discussing plans for the World Trade Center site, but the public was not a part of this early equation. Given that September 11 was an attack on democracy and that the impact was felt so deeply by the public, the Municipal Art Society felt that the response must be democratic — both to reaffirm those values under attack and to recognize that the tragedy affected many people on many levels. Within a few weeks, Imagine New York had grown into a massive effort to reach into communities throughout the region — from Poughkeepsie to Red Bank, from fourth-grade classrooms to senior centers, from NASDAQ to a homeless shelter — to give the broadest possible public an opportunity to express their ideas, visions and concerns for the Trade Center site, Lower Manhattan and their own neighborhoods.

It is imperative that the conversation about the future of the city include diverse voices so that the breadth of September 11's impacts are fully understood and addressed. Many important issues — such as the difficulties facing Chinatown businesses and displaced workers and the environmental concerns of downtown residents — may not have gotten attention if the public had not spoken up and made themselves heard.

But the public also should be part of the dialogue about the future of downtown because people who live, work and visit a place often have the best sense of what makes that community work. The 49 visions that came out of Imagine New York reflect an incredible richness and sensitivity that we did not see in the six plans released by the LMDC and Port Authority. The public envisions a place that respects and honors those who lost their lives on 9/11, that captures the powerful symbolism of the site, that embraces the multiculturalism of New York City, and that serves as a community gathering place and a beacon of hope and activity for future generations.

It seems pretty clear that the first six plans for the WTC site fell short of the public's expectations and that there were too many constraints placed on the site to allow for the kind of innovative, inspiring place that the public demands and deserves. What I hope is that the decision-makers will send the planners back to the drawing board with a new program to guide their work, and that that new program will be drawn from the 49 visions from Imagine New York. Four thousand people have spoken thoughtfully on what they want to see happen in Lower Manhattan and beyond, and those visions should be the starting place.

Our website ( displays the six plans released by the LMDC and Port Authority, and we encourage visitors to rate how they compare to the Imagine New York visions. We hope to keep our participants and others actively engaged in the rebuilding process going forward.

At the end of the day, this site is the most important public legacy of our generation, and it should be the public deciding what that legacy will be.

Leicht is co-Director of Imagine New York, a project of the Municipal Art Society.

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