Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

WTC Plan Causes Concern Over Clean Up
By Alex Cukan, National Desk, April 9, 2002

    NEW YORK, April 9 (UPI) -- The agency charged with rebuilding the 16-acre site where the World Trade Center once stood released a "set of principles" Tuesday to guide development of the site but some think the plan is doomed if clean up is ignored. "If they go and build on a dirty foundation, there will be no trust, people will get sick because "Ground Zero" has all the characteristics of a Superfund site and the project will be doomed," Indira Singh, a risk architect and volunteer emergency medical technician told United Press International. "They have one chance to get this right, this year to do the clean up properly and if they don't they will have wasted all the money put into the rebuilding at Ground Zero."
    The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a 16-member board of city and state appointees, envisions Lower Manhattan as a bustling center of commerce, trade, cultural institutions, arts, education, housing, retail, recreation and restaurants. The LMDC is charged with overseeing redevelopment and distribution of $2 billion in federal aid provided by the federal government in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
    Matthew Higgins, the spokesman for the LMDC told UPI he did not have an on-the-record response on the clean up issue but promised to provide one, but he did not. At issue is the contaminated dust that settled over Lower Manhattan after the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept. 11. The dust from the pulverized walls, concrete, wood, class and plastic of the two 110-story Twin Towers covered several blocks surrounding the World Trade Center and if windows were broken or open, the dust settled in apartments.
    Last September, Joel R. Kupferman, an attorney at the New York Environmental Law Justice Project in New York City, had numerous samples of the dust tested by ATC Associates of New York City. "Analyses of our dust samples showed that one in four samples tested contained 2.1 percent asbestos, which is more than double the 1 percent level at which a material is legally designated as hazardous, and is subject to special abatement and removal procedures," said Kupferman. "These results were consistent with those reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with reported levels as high as 3.3 percent asbestos in some samples."
    In addition, a group from the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver came to Lower Manhattan last September and through field testing and remote sensing flights found the dust to be quite alkaline, according to Geoff Plumlee, a research geochemist with the U.S.G.S. "On Sept. 27 we gave our results to the emergency responders and government agencies including the EPA and then our results went under a detailed peer review and we put the results on our Web site in November," said Plumlee.
    Most of the U.S.G.S. samples had a pH of 9.5 to 10.5, two taken inside a high-rise apartment and in a gymnasium across from the World Trade Center had a pH of 11.8 to 12.1 -- equivalent to that of liquid drain cleaner, the U.S.G.S. said. "The clean up issues are not being addressed or considered by the LMDC," Sudhir Jain, of the Lower Manhattan Tenants Coalition, told UPI. "Basically, we have called for comprehensive indoor testing of the homes in Lower Manhattan but the LMDC has ignored this -- we are seeking support from Sen. Hillary (Rodham) Clinton to urge the EPA to get more involved in the testing and clean up."
    The tenants also want the LMDC to seek input from the tenants sooner, rather than later. For example, Jain said the agency wanted to add 60 ferries at North Cove, in Battery Park City -- a residential area, but only after a couple of weeks of protests by the tenants did the agency move back the ferries to an existing ferry hub.
    In its preliminary plan, the LMDC wants to set up by this summer a competition for a memorial to the more than 2,800 people who perished on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center and a transportation plan. "The process for the competition or the memorial, how the competition will be structured, and who will administrate and judge the competition should be ready be this summer," Higgens told UPI. "The time frame for the entire project will also be made more clear this summer."
    The "Blueprint for Renewal" released Tuesday includes: the creation of an intermodal transit hub linking PATH (New Jersey), subway, and future regional rail service; depressing West Street so it is no longer a barrier between Battery Park City and the rest of Lower Manhattan; and creating a new at-grade boulevard that incorporates attractive buildings and parks. "We must undertake the creation of a memorial and the revitalization of the World Trade Center site with appropriate care, but also with a sense of urgency," said John C. Whitehead, chairman of the LMDC. "Together, the principles and blueprint provide a framework to undertake this important work."
    On the transportation plan, the LMDC will work with state Department of Transportation, the city DOT, the Port Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Battery Park City Authority, the Hudson River Park Trust, and other involved groups and agencies. "Mass transit is the lifeblood of Lower Manhattan, transporting hundreds of thousands of people each day by subway, train, ferry, bus, bridges and tunnels, but there have been no new mass transit lines constructed in Lower Manhattan since 1932, according to the LMDC.
    Also released Tuesday by the LMDC are the "Principles for Action" for Lower Manhattan development that include:
-- Making decisions based on an inclusive and open public process;
-- Creating a memorial honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks while reaffirming the democratic ideals that came under attack on Sept. 11;
-- Assisting the rapid revitalization of Lower Manhattan, in a manner that does not preclude desirable future development plans;
-- Coordinating and encouraging the infrastructure improvements that will trigger the private investment needed;
-- Supporting the economic vitality of Lower Manhattan as the financial capital of the world;
-- Expanding and enhance public and open spaces.
    In addition, the LMDC also approved a revised version of the Individual Assistance Plan, which provides financial incentives to retain and attract residents to Lower Manhattan and provides funding for job training to businesses south of 14th Street. Residents near Ground Zero could get up to $12,000 over two years in rent or mortgage assistance, but the residents of Chinatown, Little Italy and parts of the Lower East Side could receive $1,000 one-time subsidies under a $277 million incentive plan. Households with children could get an additional $1,500 to stay or live in Lower Manhattan. The incentive plan is open for public comment until April 22.
    "The trouble is that people are being lured to live near Ground Zero because of the LMDC money, they didn't live through the dust cloud and they don't know if their new home is contaminated or not because there has been no indoor testing," Singh said. "They could use the money for the clean up but instead, the LMDC and the LMTC have become two armies in a war over Lower Manhattan."
    "The LMDC doesn't want to deal with us, it's as if those of us who lived through Sept. 11 are tainted, like Vietnam War veterans, and they don't want those of us still coughing to hang around and put a damper on their development plans," she added.

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