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Guest column: It's time to listen to the people and rebuild the Twin Towers

This column was submitted by Margaret Donovan of the Twin Towers Alliance

A remark that Gov. Paterson recently made to the editorial board of the New York Times holds the key to rescuing the World Trade Center from the world-class embarrassment it has become. “When asked what had particularly surprised him in his six months since becoming governor, he said bluntly, ‘What surprised me the most was how little people who have authority want to exercise it.’”

The shambles at the World Trade Center is crying out for someone to exercise authority, but the right kind. That is, authority derived from the public will. The shocking mess at Ground Zero was caused by the arrogance of George Pataki, who felt free to exercise his vanity instead of obeying his oath of office. Why are we still tangled up in his web?

The banana republic-style selection process that Pataki used to undermine the will of the people has been exposed by respected observers across the political spectrum. As a New York Press review of Philip Nobel’s book Sixteen Acres explained in 2005: “Though for many the Ground Zero rebuilding effort exuded the quaint impression of a grassroots, democratic process in the heart of a grief-stricken Big Apple, Nobel’s book, together with other recent examinations, reveals the degree to which the process was manipulated by big money interests and a powerful governor on an election-year time table who dealt from a stacked deck.”

Now Gov. Paterson has the opportunity to show that he understands his obligation to the people. If we can build spectacular new Twin Towers and a fitting memorial for far less than the projected costs of the current plan and far sooner than expected, what grounds would there be for preventing what most people have always wanted and expected?The Twin Towers II Redevelopment Plan for the World Trade Center, which first came to the public’s attention when it was endorsed by Donald Trump in 2005, has been in constant development for more than five years. Unfortunately, the grassroots nature of the project was lost on the press as they mugged Mr. Trump for his “hubris,” while missing or ignoring the fact that he was simply advocating what most of us believe.

But we can still convert the current fiasco into something that is a credit to our national character. The only obstacles are political. An impartial evaluation could be finished in a matter of days. We are confident it would show that the Twin Towers II alternative is demonstrably superior by every measure. Furthermore, the transition could be easily achieved.

It’s time for the politicians to respect the people’s proper role in deciding our country’s

destiny. It’s time for officials to stop subordinating the rebirth of our World Trade Center

to the dictates of New York’s real estate lobby, which has opposed rebuilding the Twin

Towers for selfish reasons from the start. And it’s time for people to stop rolling over instead of standing up for what they know is right.

Those who run our government owe the people of this city and the world something at least as noble as what was destroyed on September 11th. That is what we want, that is what we need, and that is what we deserve. As Nicole Gelinas wrote in the NY Post in 2004:

“To watch the steel structures of new Twin Towers pierce New York's skyline floor-by-floor – after all New York has been through – would be to experience one of the greatest moments in modern history.”

What could legitimately short-circuit such an awe-inspiring prospect? Nothing. The Twin Towers were destroyed by a virulent strain of hatred for the democratic process. But there is a low-grade strain in our politics that will prove just as deadly in the long run unless we put those who “know better” in their place – not above us, but beside us.

Rebuilding the World Trade Center was the last place on earth where back-room elites should have been allowed to frustrate the people’s hopes with their condescending disdain for our good sense. That is why dedicated citizens have spent years trying to get official attention where it belongs – not just for the sake of two beloved towers, but out of love and respect for our beloved country.

At the end of Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller, with his dying breath, urges Ryan to “…earn this. Earn it!” Like Private Ryan, we are called upon, after great tragedy, to justify the choices we make about our future. The current mediocre plan will never earn the respect of history. Only rebuilding better, safer, more majestic Twin Towers will.

We believe that when Gov. Paterson, Port Authority Director Chris Ward, and Larry Silverstein see the challenge in this light, they will discover that it is still not too late to do the right thing. Fortunately, The Twin Towers II Plan is ready to deliver a World Trade Center worthy of our dreams.

MORE: amNY's World Trade Center archives. Urbanite's WTC coverage.

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