April 20th - April 26th, 2007
Chase Seeking New Home for Headquarters
April 26th: JPMorgan Chase is exploring options to move out of New York City pending greater tax breaks to build a 50-story headquarters near Ground Zero. According to a New York Times report, Chase had come to an agreement with the Port Authority in late March to pay $300 million for development rights at 130 Liberty Street. The plan would relocate thousands of Chase employees from its Park Avenue offices to a new, 1.3 million-square-foot tower adjacent to the World Trade Center.
State and city officials offered Chase the same subsidy package that is available for all companies moving downtown, reported the Times. The total benefit package is worth more than $100 million, but Chase is lobbying for additional incentives. The banking giant has threatened to move to Stamford, Connecticut if officials do not accommodate its demands, but no final decision has yet been reached.
One Liberty Plaza Still Standing Strong
April 24th: Despite reports that One Liberty Plaza had crumbled to the ground after the attack on 9/11, the truth is: It's still standing tall. New York Post reporter Steve Cuozzo asserts that on the day of the attacks, CNN and other news anchors had mistakenly reported that the building had fallen along with 7 World Trade Center. According to Cuozzo, the confusion was due to "the famed optical illusion" in which the building's vertical exterior beams appear to have wobbled. The building was in fact severely damaged and in need of months of repair, according to the report.
After its rehabilitation, building owner Brookfield Properties was challenged to find tenants. Now, however, the Post reports that Brookfield is rumored to be near deals that could fill all of the tower's remaining space. Tenants may include the Royal Bank of Canada and Zurich Reinsurance. Both Brookfield's leasing director Dennis Friedrich and Royal Bank spokesperson Richard Ellis declined to comment on the Post's inquiries into the matter.
Community Debates Plans to Move Survivors Staircase
April 23rd: According to a report in Battery Park Broadsheet, debate continues over where the "Survivors' Staircase" might be moved from its current resting place on the corner of Greenwich and Vesey Streets.
The staircase is the only intact fragment of the original World Trade Center (WTC). It served as a vital escape route for many 9/11 survivors, and its future is now spurring discussions amongst preservations and family advocacy groups. One proposal suggests that the staircase could be moved to Site 2B on Battery Place, between First and Second Place. Until now, however, that site had been slated for a new Battery Park City public school.
In addition to residents, potential relocation plans are also being discussed amongst preservationists, advocacy groups, WTC developer Silverstein Properties, and the Port Authority. One concern is that the staircase, located within the footprint of Tower Two, could delay WTC reconstruction.
No final decisions have been made regarding where the relic will end up, but the Broadsheet reports that Battery Park City Authority President James Cavanaugh assured area residents that "any move to Battery Park City would be temporary, ending well before construction of a new school might start."
Bloomberg Announces Proposals for a Greener, Greater New York
April 22nd: On Sunday, Mayor Bloomberg announced ambitious plans for a series of environmental initiatives and proposals for various city infrastructure improvements. The plan's debut, dubbed PlaNYC, earned heavy media coverage, particularly for the mayor's "congestion fees" proposal. The suggestion could impose an $8 fee on drivers in certain areas of the city during rush hours, and is intended to combat growing traffic-congestion problems.
According a The New York Times report, PlaNYC includes proposals to improve mass transit, build residential housing, reduce air pollution, and create incentives to make new and existing buildings more energy efficient. The plan also calls for measures to reduce the environmental impact of approximately 950,000 of the city's buildings.
In his speech, the mayor pointed to multiple investments in the city's infrastructure, including $4 billion for the city's third major water tunnel, a $13 billion capital program for schools, and a $1.6 billion for a new water filtration plant. The mayor will need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for such improvements, which he plans to do in part through earnings from the new congestion fees.
The New York Post explains that $8 fee would affect drivers heading to midtown, Lower Manhattan, and possibly other areas of the city. If implemented, it would mark the city's first "congestion pricing" and would be charged only during rush hours, with taxi cabs exempt from fees. The Post notes that the proposal is sure to spark "a fierce battle," with residents from the city's outer boroughs "screaming the loudest." However, according to a study cited by Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White, only five percent of outer-borough residents drive into Manhattan's business districts for work.
Peck Slip Plaza Designs Green-Lighted
April 20th: According to a report in the Downtown Express, park advocates and preservationists have reached an agreement on the redesign of Peck Slip. The former boat slip on the northern edge of the South Street Seaport is slated for conversion from a parking lot to a much-needed recreational green space.
The site for the project lies within both state and city historic districts, requiring planners to gain approval by two regulatory bodies: the city Landmarks Preservation Commission and the state Historical Preservation Office.
Original design plans for Peck Slip were challenged by preservationists' assertions that by planting trees, grass or other plantings in the slip, the historical and industrial character of the site would be compromised. But according to the Downtown Express, after exchanging ideas and design suggestions for the park Community Board 1 signed off on a revised plan on Tuesday. The report explains that new designs call for two new planting beds with bushes and flowers on the triangular park's western side, more trees added to the southern side, and a fountain in the center plaza.
The new design was approved by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission on April 24th, paving the way to a mid-2009 opening.
9/11 Air-Toxins Case Thrown Out by Court
April 20th: According to a report in the New York Sun, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a lawsuit against former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Christine Whitman. The federal appellate court decided it was not "conscience shocking" for the head of the EPA to have informed New Yorkers that the air quality following 9/11 was safe, according to the Sun's report. The phrase "conscience shocking" is a legal standard that decides whether or not an official can be held liable in certain lawsuits.
After 9/11, Whitman has reassured emergency responders, residents, and Lower Manhattan workers that the air quality was safe. The lawsuit was a class action brought by 9/11 responders who spent countless hours at Ground Zero working through the devastation at the WTC site. These workers are now suffering from various respiratory ailments that were caused by what Stephen Riegel, the lawyer who brought the suit, asserts were in fact "conscience shocking" lies told by Whitman.
The panel of three judges determined that the city's plea for New Yorkers to "return to normalcy" was not a criminally negligible act. In fact, the Sun's report explains that the court's holding on this case "suggests that it will also dismiss a similar suit brought on behalf of residents near the World Trade Center." The ruling, however, is reportedly "unlikely" to affect a different class-action suit filed by other Ground Zero workers. Riegel told the Sun that that suit was filed under a different legal theory unrelated to this ruling.
In a different report by The New York Times, the EPA is being urged to widen its focus on the health effects of September 11th. The report states that health experts, environmental advocates, and politicians called on the EPA to address contamination and medical problems in Brooklyn and other areas outside of Lower Manhattan. Experts reportedly presented evidence at a congressional hearing on Monday that showed increased rates of asthma and widespread contamination in Brooklyn.