Monday, April 11, 2011

The Freedom Tower Rises

After years of an embarrassing empty space in the New York Skyline, finally the first pieces of the Freedom Tower, or One World Trade Center (they can't seem to decide what its name actually will be), have arched their way up to visibility.  Its taken them ten years to finally get past the World Financial Center.  Ten long years after the terrorist attacks, we on the New Jersey side can actually see some kind of progress in the rebuilding process.  The long nightmare of lawsuits, arguments, acrimony, and delays is definitely one of the sorriest episodes in the history of the New York area and of the entire country.  But now all that seems to be almost behind us, as a shining symbol of the power of the American culture has finally dug itself up from the valleys of Lower Manhattan to begin to take its place as the crown of the city.  The Freedom Tower says in essence, "fuck you, terrorists!  This is America, and we have beaten you.  Just try to mess with us again."

Last weekend I was able to go home to Hudson County.  Downtown Jersey City, specifically the Exchange Place PATH station, is easily the best place in the entire world to view the Manhattan skyline.  For years I've stared out across Hudson Bay to see a ruined New York skyline, lacking the grand prominence that were the Twin Towers.  (Honestly the Twin Towers were rather dull architecturally being little more than boring rectangles without the stately details of more refined structures like the Empire State Building, but their place in the general shape of Manhattan made them work.)  Now finally I can see a somewhat crude black building stand behind the dome of Two World Financial Center.  And that crude black superstructure is the spirit of America.  With the 9/11 Memorial ready to be opened this September on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, Lower Manhattan is close to making a full recovery.  No longer will Ground Zero lie there as a hideous scar across the face of America's imperial city, rather it will become part of the community, another piece of the greatness that is New York.

Can't wait for it be finished.  That's got to be on my calendar.


  1. So this Freedom Tower represents a lot...but what will it essentially be used for? Will it have the same use as the former World Trade Center Towers?

  2. More importantly, does this tower have and auto-targeting laser defense array to ensure that this never happens again?

  3. I believe the tower is for business. There's also a retail mall going up in Ground Zero. Alas, for I would have preferred Roger Ebert's vision:

    "If there is to be a memorial, let it not be of stone and steel. Fly no flag above it, for it is not the possession of a nation but a sorrow shared with the world.

    Let it be a green field, with trees and flowers. Let there be paths that wind through the shade. Put out park benches where old people can sun in the springtime, and a pond where children can skate in the winter.

    Beneath this field will lie entombed forever some of the victims of September 11. It is not where they thought to end their lives. Like the sailors of the battleship Arizona, they rest where they fell.

    Let this field stretch from one end of the destruction to the other. Let this open space among the towers mark the emptiness in our hearts. But do not make it a sad place. Give it no name. Let people think of it as the green field. Every living thing that is planted here will show faith in the future.

    Let students from all lands take a sunny corner of the field and plant a crop there. Perhaps corn, our native grain. Let the harvest be shared all over the world, with friends and enemies, because that is the teaching of our religions. Let the harvest show that life prevails over death, and let the sharing show that we love our neighbors.

    Do not build again on this place. No building can stand here. No building, no statue, no column, no arch, no symbol, no name, no date, no statement. Just the comfort of the earth, to remind us that we share it."

    But I'm not an American, merely an idealistic person tired of the endless "screw you"s which are being flung across the seas.

  4. @Yuany: Such quiet naturalistic messages are perhaps appropriate in blasted portion of the Pentagon, because God knows they could use some green fields. Manhattan already has a very lovely bit of green in Central Park, which may not be the most natural zone on Earth, but it at least gives us the comfort of being together with life and nature. Americans don't want that at Ground Zero, we want to rebuild, not just commemorate and mourn. Plus this is still a city, and there are practical commercial and business interests at hand. (For one, Ebert's blank vision means no subway PATH station, which would be massively inconvenient for me and the rest of us in Jersey.) Also, who really is going to plant corn in Lower Manhattan?

    Also, I for one greatly miss the shopping center that used to be beneath the World Trade Center. The world's best Borders book store was down there.

    Personally I've looked through several of the planned Ground Zero projects, and I rather preferred Carlos Zapatos's plan for Ground Zero, which would have turned the entire area into a large park with water fed from the Hudson. And of course a huge tower to crown things out, because there needs to be a tower. The Peterson/Littenburg plan also featured a rather beautiful park space in the same general area. However, plans of that kind seem to have been dumped, leaving the entire memorial zone only in Ground Zero itself.

    As for the final design, its pretty enough, I suppose. There's an air of bleakness that I think is overdone on some level though. Peterson/Littenberg's space is an open park first, a memorial second. This final space is clearly for the dead, not the living. Too much grey concrete and modernist architecture.

  5. I'd love to be there once the construction is complete. To me New York is where the world truly revolves in a wheel of economic progression. Being in a place like that must seem really fast-paced and amazing at the same time.

  6. This building is a cop-out. They should have rebuilt the Twin Towers.