Today, it is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has adopted Pataki’s former role as official excuse maker. He recently insisted that it is “not unreasonable for something as complex politically” as the rebuilding of Ground Zero to have dragged on for nearly a decade. If that logic has failed to calm popular passions, it is probably because the fact that politics have been allowed to obstruct something as crucial as the restoration of that hallowed ground is a large part of the scandal.
Where politicians have failed, private enterprise has shown the way. One of the few successes at Ground Zero is World Trade Center 7, the 52-story, $700 million skyscraper built and owed by real-estate developer Larry Silverstein. As Manhattan Institute scholar Steven Malanga notes, because Silverstein’s building lies outside the government-controlled section of the Ground Zero site, he was able to put up the building back in 2006. He has also turned it into an entrepreneurial success. While the official site has struggled to attract tenants, a legacy of the dysfunctional rebuilding process, World Trade Center 7 is now 85 percent leased.
It’s true that progress – however halting and inadequate – is being made. The Freedom Tower is now 36 stories high, still short of the planned 105 but, with a new story slated to be added each week, on a proper trajectory at last. A memorial waterfall is also reportedly nearing completion. Most recently, a financial peace treaty between Silverstein and the New York New Jersey Port Authority, which runs the Ground Zero site, may pave the way for the construction of two new office towers. Something, clearly, is being done.
And yet, by the measure of what the city and the country suffered nine years ago, the reality of some recent progress comes as small consolation. In the years since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has succeeded at keeping terrorists at bay, staving off a repeat of the devastating attack that many believed was inevitable. But on this September 11th, the emptiness at Ground Zero is a reminder that while America has prevented another tragedy, it has yet to attain closure for the one that shattered a country nine years ago – and that forever claimed a part of its most storied city.
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