As New York City continues to undertake the heroic work of rebuilding, it is clear that the tragedy of September 11 not only affects the financial district of Lower Manhattan, but has have far-reaching impacts throughout the City and Region; it is equally clear that recovering will demand commitment and sacrifice from every New Yorker. It is imperative that our response be informed by values of inclusion, democracy, and transparency, and that it address the needs of all who live and work in the region.
During the past four months, we
at the Pratt Center have had the unique opportunity of participating in a wide
array of discussions convened by diverse groups of individuals and interests,
all of whom have either been directly or indirectly impacted by the vicious
attack on September 11th. In different ways, each of them are attempting to
assess the interwoven and sensitive issues raised by the attack and the rebuilding
processes that are just beginning to get underway. We have been in contact with
elected officials at the City, State, and Federal levels, an active participant
with the Civic Alliance convened by the Regional Plan Association, participated
with Rebuild Downtown Our Town [R.Dot], a coalition of area business, resident
and civic leaders and organizations including Community Board One, and with
the Municipal Art Society in their effort to launch a "visioning process"
to engage a broad set of people in the memorial and rebuilding process. But
as important, we have been engaged in the Community Labor Activist Network with
community-based organizations, new immigrant groups, researchers, activists
and labor leaders, who have been engaged in struggles for social, economic,
and environmental justice, and who are concerned about the short- and long-term
impacts the events of September 11 will have on low-income neighborhoods and
communities of color. From these discussions we have convened or participated
in to date, the underlying principles we feel must inform the recovery effort
are becoming clear. As well, specific ways in which the Pratt Center can work
to actualize those principles that have emerged.
Three Principles for New York's Recovery
Inclusion, transparency, and democracy
New York as a City and a Region will need to make decisions concerning short- , intermediate- , and long-term actions of a magnitude and complexity unparalleled in our modern history. Leaders of our corporate and civic sectors have rightly pointed out the need for some of these actions to be taken as expeditiously as possible - these include planning for infrastructure improvements, remediation of the site and most importantly, the sensitive and honorable removal of the bodies of the victims of the attack.
Other actions we believe can and should be undertaken at a more reasonable pace. But the need to move quickly is not and cannot be inconsistent with the imperative to act fairly and to carry on an open and inclusive dialogue examining the choices we face. It cannot become an excuse to change land use and or environmental processes. Indeed, hearing the diverse voices of all who were affected by the attack and the recovery effort is the best way to ensure that our course of action is indeed the best. We are a diverse city and our approach must be pluralistic and open to the different of peoples and cultures that share the common ground that we know as New York City. The more transparent, open and pluralistic we in the rebuilding process, the less chance there is that what is proposed will be subject to obstruction by those who are marginalized from the process and have no other way to make their concerns felt.
Economic and social justice
It is becoming clear that the September 11 attack dealt the cruelest blow to those who labored at the lowest rungs of New York's economic ladder. Thousands of those who died worked in the lowest-paid occupations of the FIRE sector and its supporting industries. It can be hoped that relief coordinated by the public and philanthropic sectors will reach the families of these workers - but the long-term economic consequences to low- and moderate-income communities are already proving to be dire. Of the estimated 108,000 jobs lost in the direct aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings, the overwhelming majority were in the service and support sectors, as well as in travel and tourism. While most of the professional and executive staffs of major corporations affected were quickly relocated, the prospects for mid- and low-income workers have been bleak. . Of the tens of thousands of New York City residents that have been unemployed in the aftermath of September 11th, over 60 percent of those earned under $24,000 per year and 80% reside in the four boroughs other than Manhattan.
Planning for New York's recovery - from the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site itself, to the reconfiguration of the region's transportation and infrastructure - must take into account the needs of poor and minority populations and their communities, and most importantly, be sensitive and respectful of those that had people they loved taken from them.
In the months since the attack it is becoming obvious that the financial industry will decentralize, hopefully within the confines of the City of New York. They will do this to be located in more than one or two power grids and out of the need to satisfy their operational and security concerns. This decentralization process can, if properly planned, help rejuvenate many of the depressed areas of the city and the region. If done improperly it can lead to displacement, gentrification and loss of the city's tax base. The City also needs to learn that it can no longer be dependent solely on tourism and finance for its economic vitality and must begin to diversify its economy and to recognize the value of its manufacturing sector and to invest in the city greatest assets it's people and it's children.
Environmental Justice and Sustainability
Replacing the physical assets and infrastructure that were destroyed on September 11 and in decentralizing the financial sector challenges New York to become not only a more secure City, but a more humane, equitable and sustainable City. Civic and grassroots leaders must unite to demand that the reconstruction of lower Manhattan and other commercial centers, and the reconstruction of systems that link them to the region, be informed by values of environmental and social sustainability, including green building and open space design, the reduction of car dependence, and the physical enhancement and economic integration of the entire region. In doing this we must safeguard the participatory and environmental processes that have emerged over the years -- improve them, make them better, make them part of an inclusive planning process but don't weaken them by falsely and erroneously asserting that by abridging those processes that development will be expedited.
Three Tasks for PICCED
For over three decades, PICCED architects, planners and community development specialists have worked with communities throughout New York City to articulate and implement strategies for equitable and sustainable development and to uproot poverty. Our work enables organizations based in New York's diverse communities to work in partnership with government and the private sector to shape programs and policies at the community, city and regional levels. PICCED is therefore eager and well prepared to help ensure that the rebuild New York efforts are informed by the principles articulated above. We will work with community-based and civic actors in the following ways.
As the rebuilding process moves
forward expeditiously, it is critical that we think in a regional context. PICCED
will work with Civic Alliance, CBOs, civic groups, environmental justice organizations
and manufacturing advocates, to help identify how changes in our transportation
infrastructure will impact communities and how it can be used to serve in the
period of transition and well into the future. Our regional economy experienced
an unprecedented blow on September 11th, one that whose ripple effects are already
being felt throughout our communities. Therefore, it is critical that we rebuild
not only Lower Manhattan, but restore the capacity of the region's diverse and
dynamic economy through a broad-based planning, development and rebuilding process.
Policy and Resource Advocacy
There are many civic processes that will continue in the wake of the attacks and new ones that will emerge as a result of the rebuilding effort. From the new leadership team at City Hall, to the New York City 2002 budget process that will begin this month, PICCED working in partnership with others will be a voice espousing the above principles, and helping to ensure that issues of low- and moderate-income communities are addressed. While it is clear that New York City's fiscal resources will be dramatically strained, the needs for decent schools, affordable housing, and environmental justice must not be ignored. Clearly sacrifices will be required from all - but communities least able to carry them must not shoulder the heaviest burdens. PICCED will work with the new and reinvigorated New York City Council and the administration of Mayor Bloomberg--- whose openness is refreshing-and with our representatives at the State and Federal levels, to ensure that New York's most vulnerable communities have a voice in the coming discussions.
Rebuilding of Lower Manhattan
The design and redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and Lower Manhattan is something that needs to be accomplished through broad-based conceptualization. PICCED will work with a broad range of coalitions including those convened by RPA via the Civic Alliance, R.Dot and the Visioning Process led by MAS to engage the broader public in the planning and memoralization processes. In addition, we will assist CBOs, labor organizations, environmental justice organizations and manufacturing advocates to help ensure that local and minority workers and firms participate in the rebuilding - not only in the construction trades, but as suppliers of the numerous goods and services that rebuilding will require in the years to come.
It is imperative that buildings planned to replace those that have been lost be designed to the highest achievable standards of design and environmental performance. That the design of the WTC site be such that it reconnects all parts of lower Manhattan and that the barriers imposed by the WTC not be rebuilt. That West Street be rethought in such a way as to allow the grid of lower Manhattan to extend invitingly eastward toward the Hudson River. That we recognize the vitality of the diverse and dynamic communities that have emerged over the last few decades in the vicinity of the World Trade Center and weave them together in a sensitive and equitable manner. That we respect their creativity, their diversity and their unique qualities and build upon the asset base that already exists. We must also remember that this has become hallowed ground to many - if not to all of us-- and what emerges on or near this site must respect and be sensitive to that reality.
Southern Manhattan's intensively developed business cores have over the past years imposed enormous environmental burdens on the low-income communities of color in which New York's energy production, water treatment, and transportation infrastructure is overwhelmingly located. We need to collectively advocate for the implementation of Green Building principles in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and other areas in which the commercial and financial functions of the city will locate, not only on economic grounds, but also from the perspective of regional environmental justice.
The rebuilding of the City is an enormous challenge, one that will require the resources and cooperation of the broadest possible constituency. We agree with former Mayor Guiliani that indeed, New York will never be the same - that it will be not only different but better. We at the Pratt Center, with over thirty-eight years of experience in planning and community development, stand ready to aid in an thoughtful;, expeditious, inclusive, democratic and unified effort to rebuild New York.
In the end the greatest memorial and the greatest legacy we can leave future generations is that of preserving the principles of democracy, diversity, inclusion and social and economic justice. How we go about the rebuilding process is the foundation upon which that memorial can be built.
Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development
October 4, 2001
Revised January 2, 2002
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