Larry Silverstein: The Right Stuff for Ground Zero

In press accounts of the various dramas surrounding the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, real-estate developer Larry Silverstein has occasionally been portrayed as being concerned only with the financial rewards which may come his way as leaseholder. He’s also absorbed needless and gratuitous criticism from some civic groups and designers. And when Mr. Silverstein recently prevailed in a struggle with architect Daniel Libeskind for ultimate control of Ground Zero, there was some tut-tutting that economics had elbowed aside art. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is because of Mr. Silverstein’s passionate commitment that the rejuvenation of the site has come as far as it has, rather than languishing for years in indecision and political infighting.

Mr. Silverstein has been the strongest and most consistent force for rebuilding commercial office space at the site, while recognizing the need to create a memorial to the 2,800 individuals who perished there. There is, of course, a great difference of opinion about what should go on this site. Some argue for a memorial, barren of any development; others want only public parks and open space; others like Mr. Silverstein recognize that the Ground Zero site is an integral part of the lower Manhattan residential and commercial community. Despite the current high vacancy rate, downtown Manhattan desperately needs modern, class-A office space if it is to retain and attract corporate America in the 21st century. Mr. Silverstein also understands the importance of having a first-rate transportation hub serving the site. Not long after Sept. 11, he hired architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill to provide sound architectural advice. Mr. Libeskind, who was hired by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, will surely benefit from Mr. Childs’ experience as the two of them work together toward the goal of laying the first cornerstone next summer.

Naturally, Mr. Silverstein wants to turn a profit-he’s paying the Port Authority $120 million annually in rent. Would people respect him more if he declared he wanted to lose a bundle? He acquired a 99-year lease to the World Trade Center just six weeks before the terrorist attacks; his lease gives him both the right and the responsibility to rebuild, while a potential $7 billion insurance payment would provide him with the financial capacity to do so. And he’s the right man for the job. Born in the Bronx, raised in Washington Heights, the son of a classical pianist turned real-estate broker, Mr. Silverstein is a New Yorker through and through, an honest hard worker who firmly believes in the future economic health of this city-not to mention a generous philanthropist who has shared his success with causes like the United Jewish Appeal and New York University.

New Yorkers are lucky to have Larry Silverstein at the helm of this history-making project.

Indian Point Edges Closer To Disaster

There are 67 nuclear-plant sites in the United States. Only one of them-Indian Point-happens to be in one of the nation’s most densely populated regions. It is 35 miles from midtown Manhattan; to the north, south, east and west of Indian Point are millions of people whose lives would be at risk in the event of a disaster at the site. It also happens to have the worst safety record of any nuclear plant in the country. The plant should be closed. But thanks to a bizarre decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that laudable and important goal will be harder than ever to reach.

The N.R.C. recently approved a spurious and unworkable evacuation plan designed to take effect in the event of a catastrophe, such as a terrorist attack on the plant. The N.R.C.’s decision came just hours after the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommended approval of the plan. The time frame suggests just how much thought went into the N.R.C.’s decision.

The plant’s opponents made the cogent argument that the highways and roads near Indian Point are already congested, with more than 300,000 people living within 10 miles and millions more residing in a danger zone. Any attempt to move these millions quickly in the event of the unthinkable is doomed to disaster. It’s hard enough to move in the city and suburbs on a normal workday. Imagine what the Major Deegan Expressway or the West Side Highway would look like if a terrorist flew a plane into Indian Point.

The people at the N.R.C. and at FEMA apparently are as unimaginative as they are unthinking. The under secretary for emergency preparedness and response, Michael D. Brown, actually asserted that population density would not be a problem in the event of an evacuation. Getting millions of people to safety would not “create additional challenges,” Mr. Brown said. This guy needs to take a field trip on the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

Only a fool-and apparently there are many of them making life-and-death decisions in Washington, D.C.-could believe that an evacuation of New York City and its nearby suburbs could proceed smoothly in the face of a nuclear catastrophe. The evacuation plan is a piece of fiction. But it now bears the approval of two federal agencies.

The plant should be closed, and the sooner, the better. Critics are right to say that Indian Point is a weapon of mass destruction aimed at millions of New Yorkers.

To Sleep, Perchance to Live!

Want to live longer? Go back to bed.

So say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who studied sleep patterns of healthy adults ages 58 to 91 and found that those who laid awake for periods of 30 minutes or more during the night were about twice as likely to have died during the subsequent 13 years of the study. Also at risk for increased mortality were those who showed disrupted sleeping patterns or who got significantly less sleep than their peers.

New Yorkers are well-known for skimping on sleep-insomniacs are in good company here, and “you snooze, you lose” could be the city’s motto. But the new research suggests that burning the midnight oil and waking up at 5 a.m. to get to the gym may end up being bad for your health. “We should think of sleep as a health behavior we can all choose to improve,” one of the study’s authors, University of Pittsburgh psychiatry professor Martica Hall, told the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology . “Especially in our society, we tend to push it off to the side.”

So sleep more and live longer-though what sort of life you’ll be living is a whole other question. After all, those late-night, pre-dawn hours are fertile ground for getting extra work done, as well as those rare opportunities for inspiration. So those who doze may indeed eke out a few extra years-but will they have anything to talk about while they’re awake?