The Port Authority
Established in 1921 to administer the New York harbor on behalf of New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority governs many of the major transportation facilities around New York City, including the three major airports, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and the George Washington Bridge. It is jointly controlled by the states of New York and New Jersey.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Port Authority undertook the construction of the World Trade Center. The trade center was the brainchild of David Rockefeller, brother of the governor of New York and the vice chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, who wanted to revive Lower Manhattan. New Jersey Governor Robert Meyner agreed to go along with the trade center project if the Port Authority would take over the bankrupt Hudson and Manhattan commuter railroad that connected Newark and Hoboken to Lower Manhattan. The Port Authority agreed, and the rail line was renamed the Port Authority Trans-Hudson or PATH.
In April 2001, the Port Authority announced that it had agreed to lease the World Trade Center to Silverstein Properties. Silverstein paid $3.2 billion for the 99-year lease.
Silverstein Properties, Inc.
Silverstein Properties, led by President and CEO Larry Silverstein, took over the World Trade Center lease in July 2001, just weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks. Following Sept. 11, Silverstein was still required to pay $120 million in rent to the Port Authority each year, so naturally he was eager to start the rebuilding as soon as possible.
Silverstein maintained that his lease with the Port Authority required him to rebuild the 10 million square feet of office space that had been lost. "Under the circumstances -- I signed the ground lease -- I have the obligation to rebuild," he told FRONTLINE. "I have the obligation to collect the insurance policy proceeds for purposes of rebuilding. Who's going to make the decisions? I've got to make them. No one else is fit to make them, no one else can."
But Silverstein immediately entered into a battle with his insurance companies over whether the two planes hitting the two towers counted as two separate incidents or whether the attacks were all part of the same incident. A significant amount of money was at stake -- if the attacks were considered one incident, Silverstein would receive a $3.55 billion payout. But if they were two separate incidents, the insurance proceeds would double to $7.1 billion.
However, in May 2004, a jury rejected Silverstein's claims that he was owed a double payout for the two plane impacts on Sept. 11. Silverstein still has other insurance lawsuits pending, but according to The New York Times, after the May 2004 ruling, the maximum amount Silverstein could expect to receive is $4.5 billion. He has said that he intends for the Freedom Tower to be constructed by 2009 and for the other four towers planned for the site to be finished by 2013. But this aggressive timetable has been thrown into doubt over whether Silverstein has the funds to build all five buildings.
In addition to holding the lease for the World Trade Center, Silverstein also owned 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story office building he constructed in 1987 that was destroyed in the attacks of Sept. 11. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect David Childs designed a new building for 7 World Trade Center, and construction began in 2002. The building is expected to be finished in the end of 2005 or early 2006.
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC)
The LMDC was set up after Sept. 11 by Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to assist in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. Half of the LMDC's board of directors were named by the governor and half were named by the mayor. The chairman of the LMDC is John Whitehead, former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs and former deputy secretary of state. Kevin Rampe, a former adviser to Gov. George Pataki is the organization's president. A key LMDC board member is Roland Betts, chairman of the Chelsea Piers sports complex and a close friend of President George W. Bush. Betts, who served as chairman of the Ground Zero site committee, is an architecture buff and was instrumental in developing the Innovative Design Study to determine the master plan for Ground Zero after the original proposals were rejected.
The LMDC has a number of advisory councils to help shape the planning process, including groups made up of Lower Manhattan residents and business owners, family members of those who died on Sept. 11, commuters, and arts, education and tourism advocates.
Governor George Pataki
Because the Port Authority, which owned the World Trade Center, is owned jointly by the states of New York and New Jersey, the states' two governors were the politicians with the most influence over decisions at Ground Zero. Several factors combined to concentrate power in Pataki's hands: Rudolph Giuliani was a lame-duck mayor on Sept. 11; federal aid was directed to the state to be distributed; and Pataki was running for re-election in 2002 and therefore had an impetus to show progress in the rebuilding effort. Pataki consolidated his political power by incorporating the LMDC under the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency that reported directly to the governor.
It was Pataki's influence that led to the selection of Daniel Libeskind as the master planner for Ground Zero: The LMDC had voted to select the plan designed by the THINK group of architects before Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in and overruled the organization. Pataki told FRONTLINE that he felt a connection with Libeskind's story and his design. "Daniel came here, sailed past the Statue of Liberty," he said. "Daniel's emotional feel for the site reflects our own experiences. A soaring Freedom Tower, 1,776 feet high, mimicking the Statue of Liberty with a torch, as a sign that we're going beyond." And while Daniel Libeskind and David Childs were battling over the design of the Freedom Tower, Pataki held their feet to the fire, insisting that the two architects reach a compromise and setting ambitious deadlines for the final design and the laying of the tower's cornerstone. Pataki set the symbolic date of July 4, 2004 for the laying of the cornerstone. That the ceremony was held prior to the Republican National Convention, held in New York City later that summer, did not escape the notice of pundits speculating about Pataki's national political ambitions.
The families of those who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 obviously had a tremendous stake in the future of the site where their loved ones died. In the first weeks and months following the attacks, many felt nothing should be built at all on Ground Zero. But as time went on, some families organized in order to make their ideas heard.
September's Mission is an organization founded by Monica Iken, whose husband died in the south tower. The group supports building a memorial park on the site.
The Coalition of 9/11 Families is an umbrella organization of many support groups formed by the families, and it argues that "The future memorial at the World Trade Center site is America's Memorial and must be treated with the same historical reverence as comparable sites in American history such as Shanksville, Gettysburg, the Okalahoma City National Memorial, and Pearl Harbor." On the coalition's Web site is an essay by Michael Hanson titled, "Importance of Memorials." "We lived through history on 9/11," Hanson writes.
Now we are called upon to create history -- to memorialize so that our memory does not become lead in our wings but rather projects us into a positive future of possibility. This memorial will stand not for the few, but for the many and it will be our guarantor that this never happens again. … It is our duty to sculpt the face of justice in this space. Justice is birthed by our memory and justice will only be served if we dedicate the World Trade Center site to memorialize the indelible mark our dead left on our lives. This memorial, this living testament to our history and to our possible future, will be the trace of their touch and the legacy of our triumphs.
Lower Manhattan Residents and Businesses
In addition to the citizens and businesses represented on the advisory councils to the LMDC, several other groups were formed to impact the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan.
New York New Visions is a coalition of 21 architecture, urban planning and design organizations that issued a set of seven guiding principles that helped guide the rebuilding process. Among other proposals, the group advocated an open and transparent process to determine a memorial and urged a mixed-use plan for the site that would include housing, retail, business, and cultural space.
The Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York, commonly referred to as the Civic Alliance, was formed by a partnership between New School University, New York University, the Pratt Institute, and the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to shaping regional planning for the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In addition to memorializing Sept. 11, the Civic Alliance calls for "a new Downtown that is alive 24 hours a day, a place where people stroll along the narrow historic streets that anchor America's leadership of the global finance system, while simultaneously serving as a home to diverse and economically integrated residential communities, to shops and restaurants, schools, universities and to new industries." The Civic Alliance sponsored several hearings to gain public input on plans for the site, including the July 2002 Listening to the City event, in which over 4,000 participants expressed their distaste for the initial designs proposed for Ground Zero.