John Whitehead, the chairman of the agency in charge of Ground Zero, was trying to adjourn the monthly meeting this morning when Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, a member of the agency’s advisory council, spoke up:
“Mr. Chairman, before you make that–entertain that motion, I would just like to make a brief statement.
I think it is disappointing that this conclusion was reached in the way it was reached.”
Whitehead, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, had just put the International Freedom Center on a sort of probation for the next six weeks.
By Sept. 23, he said the Freedom Center needed to make public “specific plans, program and governance structure” in order to keep its place in a prominent building right next to the victims’ memorial.
Basically, Whitehead–and the Governor who had appointed him–had had enough of Sept. 11 families unhappy with the politics and placement of the center, as we exhaustively explained in this week’s Observer.
“If at the end of this process,” Whitehead said, “the LMDC is not satisfied with the IFC’s proposal, we will find another use or tenant–consistent with out objectives–for that space in the Snohetta building.”
Doctoroff’s boss, Mayor Bloomberg, has been more tolerant of the Freedom Center and the much smaller Drawing Center, which was to share the building, than has Governor Pataki. The Drawing Center is all but officially off the 16 acres.
And just to add to the intrigue, Doctoroff had been called out of the meeting just before this came to a head–sort of like what happened with Kalikow at the MTA meeting on Atlantic Yards, no?
It’s so rare anything vaguely resembling vigor is in evidence at these meetings, we thought we’d give you a bit more:
Doctoroff: “As you pointed out in your statement, the LMDC went though an exhaustive process to determine the components of the cultural elements of the master plan. Many of the people here were involved in that process. It was a large amount of public comment and I think to reach this conclusion without a significant amount, specifically within this body, of debate and public comment leading up to the debate, is disappointing. I’m not necessarily commenting on the conclusion, but really much more on the process. I, for one, question what went into the decision to remove the Drawing Center–again much more focusing on the process than necessarily on the substance of the decision.”
Whitehead: “May I just speak to the Drawing Center part of it? I believe the Drawing Center board is finding it difficult to comply with the requirements that have been laid down, that they must never present anything which might be offensive to families, and so they have chosen to look for other sites. They have not decided to leave the site that they’re in, but they are–have chosen and are now looking actively with our assistance for other sites. This is their decision, not our decision. So that would answer your question. I don’t–we tried to have–there have been discussions with so many people involved in this over the past few weeks that I apologize if we have not discussed as much with you as we should have and–”
DD: “Not so much with me. I think it’s publicly as well, to entertain a process of inclusion. One of the things that have been the hallmark of the LMDC and I think that has earned it the respect and credibility of so many people, is the careful way that we have approached decisions in every case listening, certainly in every important case, significant public input and comment and so I think that said this is a disappointing process that has been undertaken here.”
JW: “And I apologize for not having discussed it more with you but the process has been discussed with so many people, I have done little else but discussed the process with people in the last six weeks. So I can’t say we haven’t had an active discussion with lots of people, including various members of the family groups. I think we’ll now ask for a motion to adjourn the meeting and move on to the press conference.”
By the way, members of the families opposed to the Freedom Center who attended the meeting were still not happy. Last night, they announced a “Take Back the Memorial” rally on Sept. 10. That is just what a presidential candidate like Pataki needs as our nation’s eyes turn to Ground Zero.
– Matthew Schuerman