The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has chosen six teams of architects and planners to create redevelopment plans for the World Trade Center site. The most appropriate plan, however, is not on the drawing board.
That would be a 16-acre memorial devoted not to commerce, but to reflection and memory.
Downtown New York does not need more office space. It does not need more architecture. It does not need yet another cathedral of commerce. But it does need beautifully landscaped open space. And the city as a whole needs a permanent reminder of one of the most tragic days in American history. The city needs a 21st-century version of the Lincoln Memorial or Washington Monument, dedicated to the thousands who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. Their loss demands an appropriate remembrance, a sublime open space that honors sacrifice, loss and, of course, the courage of those who died trying to rescue others.
The architects and planners seem determined to simply replace the commercial space lost on that terrible day, with not much more than a passing acknowledgment that the site is, in many ways, hallowed ground. It seems more than a little bizarre that the city would allow Ground Zero-the equivalent of the preserved battlefields of the Civil War-to be treated as if it were just another construction site.
Far better that the area be redeveloped as open space, with an appropriate and inspirational monument acknowledging that an extraordinary event took place there. Along with a memorial, the city should enhance public transportation to the site, which will surely become a destination that will draw millions of new visitors to New York. Let the courts decide how the insurance should be handled; that’s a minor issue compared with the enormity of the assault perpetrated on New York on Sept. 11.
The LMDC ought to hire a world-class architect to create a memorial that will offer comfort and inspiration to generations of New Yorkers and tourists from around the world. To do anything less is to minimize the deaths and heroism of Sept. 11. To do anything less would suggest that New York has already begun to forget.
Tax Commuters, Tourists
With his hints to close associates and the media that he will likely raise taxes to help close the city’s perilous $6 billion budget gap, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is making public what budget experts have been saying in private for months. Indeed, there is no way for the Mayor to balance the city’s rocky finances only with service cuts and increased efficiencies.
That said, any attempt to raise property or income taxes would be a disaster for the city’s long-term finances. Fortunately, there are two other potential sources of income-a commuter tax and a tourism tax-which would help close the gap without punishing the people who make New York their home.
Before it was repealed in 1999 by the hacks in Albany, the commuter tax of 0.45 percent brought in $400 million annually. That percentage is far too low, considering how much time commuters spend in the city under the protection of New York’s police, fire and emergency-medical services. A restored commuter tax should be pegged at 1 percent-still quite a bargain. At that rate, a new commuter tax would yield close to $1 billion. Unfortunately, the city can’t reimpose the tax unilaterally-that would be up to the State Legislature and Governor George Pataki, who has been running ads in the suburbs boasting about his role in eliminating the old commuter tax. Mayor Bloomberg-and other national Republican leaders-should remind the Governor that the city is not suffering through just another economic bust. New York is attempting to rebuild after an act of war. These are not ordinary times, and it is in the state’s interest that the city’s finances be restored as quickly as possible.
That still leaves a yawning $5 billion budget gap. A solution? Ask the 32 million tourists who visit the city annually to each pay a fee of $150. That may sound like a radical idea, but the city goes to great expense to make sure its visitors have a safe holiday. Asking them to pay a small tax for this privilege hardly seems unreasonable.
Critics will say that the above taxes will discourage tourism and drive commuters to jobs in the suburbs. That is absurd. If, however, the Mayor is forced to cut services to close the budget gap, the inevitable result-a more dangerous and dirty city, a city of crumbling bridges and filthy subways-will decimate the tourism industry. Likewise, raising property and income taxes would rock the city’s economic foundation and drive companies and residents out of New York.
Optimists Live Longer
Rather than just changing your diet and exercise regimen, it turns out that changing your mind may also significantly lengthen your life. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have looked at mortality rates of a group of subjects they first studied in the early 1960’s, and found that those who scored in the “optimist” category on the earlier personality tests showed a 50 percent lower risk of premature death than those who fell into the “pessimist” range. And a ripe old age wasn’t the only benefit of positive thinking: The Mayo team found that optimists reported less physical pain and were more energetic and relaxed than pessimists.
Besides the mind-body connection, the researchers also attribute optimists’ better health to the fact that those with a positive outlook are more likely to see a doctor right away when they first feel that something is wrong with them-because they view illness and obstacles as temporary and workable. The researchers also found that people who expect to live their later years in good health surrounded by friends and family tend to have those expectations come true, while those who expect to pass their twilight years in illness and isolation often end up in just that situation. As the Mayo Clinic newsletter noted, “Your negative expectations can make you age faster than nature intended.”