Saturday, February 08, 2003

And Now There Are Two

The two finalists for the new World Trade Center have been announced: THINK’s World Cultural Center, a recreation of the Twin Towers at the moment of impact; and Daniel Libeskind’s plate glass Stonehenge. Both are works of art. Both would have a disastrous effect on the city.

In particular I think THINK’s plan to replace the Trade Center with vaguely cultural buildings would be a disaster.

Lower Manhattan is to capitalism what the Vatican is Catholicism. Futures traders and shipping brokers are not going to linger downtown after hours attending “cultural events.” They want trading floors not art galleries. Where is the New York Merc in these plans? Where is the Coffee, Sugar, Cocoa Exchange? Why hasn’t anyone suggested a new home for the NYSE before they decide to move to Jersey City?

Besides, can't we learn from the past for once. Plopping down hugely expensive and conspicuously "designed" buildings and calling them a cultural center is the kiss of death to any dynamic, authentic culture. It becomes a museum of culture like the Kennedy Center or Lincoln Center.

Lower Manhattan is a generator of culture. The Muschamps of the world dismiss this because it is the culture of money and commerce.

When I imagine the old Twin Towers I hear thumping disco from WKTU. I picture people from Long Island and Jersey having their wedding photos taken with the Towers in the background. I can smell the cigarettes and the sweat from the gold pit at the COMEX.

Look at the people murdered on 9/11. They were 30 year olds from the outer boroughs who went to Met games and Billy Joel concerts. How come none of designs to memorialize them include a sports arena to replace Madison Square Garden or Shea Stadium?

Why? Because ridiculous black-clad elitists like Liebeskind can't even conceive of going to see fistfight between the Rangers and Flyers or barking sell orders at pimply guys from J. Aron. Does Herb Muschamp even know what business Cantor Fitzgerald was in?

Lower Manhattan is about striving, middle-class dreams, competition, playing the game and winning.

To turn it into some alien haute culture wasteland would be the kiss of death and a profound dishonor.

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