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

'…the challenge stemming from this disaster is to provide an integrated planning process which defines immediate and long-range goals and primary and secondary physical boundaries, and one which provides for a full and fair process of public participation.'
Imagining the Future
Ethel Sheffer

Ethel Sheffer

The Max Protech Gallery Show

Visions of architects and artists for rebuilding at Ground Zero
56k | 220k

Town Hall Meeting

A forum for city resident on the site's future
56k | 220k


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.

Combine Vision with Comprehensive Planning

By Ethel Sheffer

In the days following the shock and horror of the destruction of the World Trade Center, planners joined with colleagues in related professions, government and the community to bring to bear our technical competence and commitment to public interest goals on the various efforts to rebuild Lower Manhattan. During the past eleven months, we have been part of an unprecedented process in which government and the public have debated concepts for consecrating and memorializing the 16-acre site where so much destruction occurred. Now, at the anniversary of 9/11, we must integrate our passion with civic commitment and rational planning.

Here are some principles and ideas to guide us:

  • Vision: We must start with the question of what our collective vision for the site and the city should be. It is not an abstract exercise for all parties — government, experts, stakeholders — to answer: What kind of people are we and what kind of city do we wish to become? Ground Zero should now be seen as part of the public domain: we should look beyond immediate concerns to the future needs of the city. Physical forms should embody social values — equity, accessibility, efficiency, human scale, diversity and environmental quality.
  • Comprehensive Planning: The rebuilding of the WTC site needs to be shaped by a comprehensive plan for all of Lower Manhattan below Houston Street, connected to regional economic and transportation programs. This is a difficult task, but the site has symbolic and economic importance beyond any one set of interests. It is at once a site of international activity and global symbolism, a crucial and historic part of New York City, and a residential neighborhood just beginning to establish its identity. The physical rebuilding of the area must reflect the legitimate needs of many constituencies, and it must foreshadow the city's future economic development. This is what true planning is about; we can combine vision and strategies.
  • Public Investment for an Improved Public Realm: We should develop a full open space and park system for Lower Manhattan as part of the investment in our future city. This also means that private buildings, whether skyscrapers or smaller buildings, should all be built so that they relate to open spaces, to the streets, and to the harbor from all directions.
  • A walkable, vibrant, diverse street life: We should plan for life on the streets: opening shops oriented to pedestrians; making Broadway "downtown's Main Street"; encouraging river-to-river pedestrian and traffic circulation.
  • The Memorial: The memorial and the overall planning process cannot be compartmentalized or proceed on separate tracks. They have to be integrated into the thinking and planning for the use, form and character of the neighborhood.
  • Information and analysis are the key to planning: Experts, stakeholders and the public all have to be given as much information as possible on the costs and benefits of any proposed new infrastructure and transportation, for housing and retail, for open space and recreation, for cultural and office uses. New Yorkers must believe they are helping to choose among alternatives and options.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and others have lately begun to respond to the idea of an overriding civic vision. We planners need to continue emphasizing this perspective as we move into politics, planning, and building.

Sheffer is president of the American Planning Association, New York Metro Chapter

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