In his column today, the Post‘s Steve Cuozzo (the 100th most powerful man in real estate) suggested that New Yorkers retire the phrase “ground zero,” and let the term become–like bin Laden and the chaos surrounding the WTC’s reconstruction–a thing of the past.
“To stand at Church and Vesey streets,” Cuozzo says, “is to witness a new Downtown being born.”
After nearly a decade of false starts, delays, and general confusion, the city is finally beginning to see the emerging outline of the new World Trade Center. Cuozzo writes a quick rundown on the status of each project, and even manages to be positive–or at least restrained–about plans he previously criticized, saying that it’s “too late to turn back” on the Transportation Hub (though he also calls the project “tortured”), and concedes that the surrounding trees soften the memorial’s effect.
Cuozzo also spoke to critics who believe that the scope of the real estate project exceeds the demand for the space in a city that currently has a commercial vacancy rate of more than 10 percent. Following this logic, he argues, the Twin Towers should never have been built, as they took decades to fill. Of course, he also says that detractors are either jealous, defeatist or Twin Towers fanatics “for whom only restoration of the banal hulks would do.”
From a real estate perspective, Cuozzo’s argument makes sense. For the past several years, “Ground Zero” has described the rubble on which the Twin Towers once stood-and the site of impotent development plans, delays, and indecision. He seems to believe that with the area’s reconstruction, the term will no longer apply to the location. It will refer to a prior state of flux in which we were still dealing with the tragedy of September 11 in some form or function. Since the project finally appears to be on track, we should let “Ground Zero” go.
For more general purposes, however, we would be doing the victims of September 11 a disservice in retiring the phrase. Developing projects may stand on the site, but the memory of what occurred there less than a decade ago remains. It is the only 9/11-specific phrase that applies to the location: “World Trade Center” described it before the tragedy, and will apply to the new buildings going forward. “Ground Zero” is the term that allows us to preserve, in daily language, the legacy of those who died.
Despite the site’s reconstruction and bin Laden’s death, 9/11 is still a source of grief for many; and the terrorist group that masterminded it, though reduced, still poses a threat to our country. The last people who truly occupied the site were those who were injured, killed, or in serious danger during the terrorist attack. The term ground Zero, though obsolete in terms of physical real estate, recalls a tragedy that is still too fresh to leave behind
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