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UP FROM ZERO by Paul Goldberger

UP FROM ZERO

Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York

By Paul Goldberger

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 2004
ISBN: 1-4000-6017-6
Publisher: Random House

The tortuous trail of conflicts and compromises that resulted in the project to erect the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower on the Ground Zero site.

No benediction this, but New Yorker architecture critic Goldberger does credit the principal forces behind Freedom Tower for bashing the monumental egos, greasing the political skids, and mollifying contentious special interests in order to get to the point where idealism would confront cynicism: “So far,” he contends, “they have battled to a draw.” Goldberger ably frames the situation immediately after 9/11. Many, including then–Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the majority of victims’ survivors, strongly urged that the “hallowed ground” of the former World Trade Center’s Twin Towers remain forever undeveloped as the only fitting memorial. Another faction, led by developer Larry Silverstein, who had leased the WTC property from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, wanted to immediately throw up an even more spectacular tower to demonstrate America’s resilience—and maximize the insurance benefit along the way. Cooler heads, Goldberger documents, were able to rein in the impulsiveness on both sides and let the mourning play out while fostering public forums and a competition for a replacement structure. In the 9/11 aftermath, however, tall buildings were suddenly viewed as dinosaurs, and corporations were dispersing key staff to multiple, often suburban, locations. But pressure from New York Governor George Pataki (coincidentally facing an election) and others kept the newly formed Lower Manhattan Development Commission’s eye on the ball: a project that could be commercially successful while at the same time embodying unique attributes befitting a Ground Zero memorial. In the end, Goldberger allows, it’s all about how another big deal gets done in the big city.

Insider play-by-play with politicians, potential profiteers, and top architects scrambling for the plum: an absorbing, if not inspiring, record.