last gleaming


As we approach the 4th of July, there’s one piece of America that is still a giant fucking hole, years after a disaster – well, obviously two, if you count New Orleans – but I’m talking about the World Trade Center site in downtown NYC. If there was a testament, a piece of visual poetry, to perfectly encapsulate America’s self-image, you don’t have to look any farther than Ground Zero almost seven years after the attack.

I drive by Ground Zero all the time, and for six years, it has looked exactly the same: bulldozers, temporary walkways, dirt, and plastic sheeting. If we weren’t so used to it, the site would be considered a brownfield blight, a tragedy that started on September 12 and never stopped.

You’d think it’d be a matter of national honor to get this site fixed. What would be a better metaphor for the American spirit than another tower, a bustling workplace, a somber yet soaring monument – hell, even a pasture with cows – to raise the spirits of New Yorkers and all Americans? We could even hoist the old “Don’t Tread On Us” flag and mean it. Instead, we’ve got this rain-filled sinkhole beset by a bunch of bullshit bureaucrats and a bunch of architects whacking off on our dollar.

The Empire State Building was built in 410 days during the Depression. How about the Hoover Dam, which required tunneling through the Black Canyon (twice), diverting the Colorado River, creating Lake Mead, and pouring the largest concrete structure in the world? Done in four years, largely with hand tools.

Oh, and for a bit of irony – 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were from Saudi Arabia, now home of the Burj Dubai building [actually the U.A.E. – thanks, Ehren! -ed], which broke ground in September 2004 and will be the tallest man-made structure of any kind when finished next year.

Our festering gully of shame won’t even be finished by 2011. Seems we have another decade of squabbling, ninnyism, staggering inefficiency, cronyism, blame-shifting and ego to go through. What an incomprehensible lack of vision. Get used to it:


0 thoughts on “last gleaming

  1. jody

    Similar sentiments:
    Seriously, a large part of American paralysis is the need for consensus, at every level, legally, politically, personally and psychologically.
    While the Hoover Dam is generally lauded as an accomplishment, there are many who are far more emotional about having it removed. The Golden Gate would not be permissible at this point because it “violates the viewshed”. Don’t really want to come across as a right wing sounding hack (well, sorta), but as a design engineer I can tell you that it is incredibly difficult and takes years to replace a substandard bridge on a two-lane rural route…the actual foundation and structural design takes about two days. Each reason for the delay makes sense in a vacuum but you are generally correct with “bunch of bullshit bureaucrats and a bunch of architects whacking off on our dollar.”

  2. LFMD

    You know, I never thought that a building should be built on that site in the first place. To me, Ground Zero is one large graveyard. I don’t think of it as a rain-filled sinkhole. There is beauty and poignancy in leaving Ground Zero as it is.
    The concept of paving over and building a tower on the ground where thousands lost their lives is what is wrong with America. Why must our quest for the almighty dollar and desire for “prime real estate” trump everything?

  3. kevin from NC

    It is time for a new New Deal. Our government should put people to work. This country’s infrastructure needs are vast. Our national parks are crumbling. There is tons of work to do and it is time to get going on it. Most of these projects would pale in comparison financially to the current war. There is a country that needs to be rebuilt… it is the USA.

  4. Claverack Weekender

    Well it took almost 100 years for the Prison Ship Martyrs monument to go up, 60 years for the Gettysburg memorial, and 350 years for the Bubonic Plague remembrance garden in the UK. Cut our bloated public agencies some slack here, man.

  5. caveman

    See the large black building at the top center of the photo adjacent to the world trade center site? I worked there for three years and was on the 30th floor on 9/11/01….good times.
    This is a national disgrace. Freedom Tower my ass.

  6. Ehren

    A minor correction: the Burj Dubai is actually in Dubai, oddly enough, which is one of the Emirates in the United Arab Emirates.
    Also, the problem is one of major consensus. The City wants some say in how the WTC site is developed, as does the State of NY, as does the Port Authority of NY and NJ (a joint authority not directly under the influence of either state), as does the Federal Government, as does the private owner of the aboveground site. That’s a lot of people to please.
    But is there another way? Should we just say that the private owner should build whatever the hell he wants (how about a series of ugly 14-story concrete and glass office towers)? Or should we let the Federal Government take it away from the owner and build whatever bullshit George Bush wants?
    It’s a complicated site, and the reason you’re so angry about it is because we all feel like it’s important and we all want something symbolic and amazing there. The ESB and Hoover Dam were both built by single organizations and without any real input from the public. They were projects that were just shoved through because nobody had any say. These days, we all have much more say in how things get done in our city, which is a good thing, for the most part.

  7. mcf

    here, here, Ehren.
    the only piece you missed (in my humble view) is the families’ input — that is the active victims’ families groups — and that’s a whole other “thing…”
    “rebuilding” lower manhattan is unprecedented on many levels, and more complex than most anyone who hasn’t been directly involved realizes … even those who have been directly involved have been surprised at the twists and turns brought to bear by private interests and “competing” govt entities … it is easy to sit in judgement, and i understand that this easily serves as a metaphor for those who care to make certain arguments. for me, it just signals how hard it is to get something done on this scale in NYC.
    note any other number of huge projects offered in the last decade that have fallen to the wayside as a result of so much “input.” then realize that this “project” dwarfs all of the others that might come to mind.
    not that i think input is a bad thing. i don’t. but getting to consensus on a project of this magnitude, as ehren says, ain’t easy.

  8. CM

    I agree with LFMD. What’s the rush? I’d rather focus on erecting memorials and remembering the deeds of people who died than in putting up another giant financial center in an already packed area.

  9. xuxE

    Oh pshaw, we don’t need a new deal, that sounds like unpatriotic commie “big government” talk! all we need is the free market – we can just sell all of manhattan to the big ass infuckstructure funds and I’m sure they will put up something lovely on the ground zero site, just like the lovely work they will do on all the bridges, ports, roads, wastwater treatment plants, aiprports, and everything else our society needs to thrive – and they might even coincidentally earn a handsome profit at the same time!


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