Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center

Overview

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans came together in a way not seen for a generation, pledging unity to rebuild after the horrific loss of the Twin Towers. People were signing up to go to war; rescue workers were laboring to clear rubble.  But instead of becoming a rallying symbol in the fight against terrorism, Ground Zero has been plagued by intense conflict and controversy from the very start. Battle for Ground Zero goes behind the scenes of this fight to rebuild, revealing how grieving families, ...

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Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center

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Overview

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans came together in a way not seen for a generation, pledging unity to rebuild after the horrific loss of the Twin Towers. People were signing up to go to war; rescue workers were laboring to clear rubble.  But instead of becoming a rallying symbol in the fight against terrorism, Ground Zero has been plagued by intense conflict and controversy from the very start. Battle for Ground Zero goes behind the scenes of this fight to rebuild, revealing how grieving families, commercial interests, and politicking bureaucrats clashed at every step of the way, confounding progress and infuriating the public. Since the fall of 2001, author Elizabeth Greenspan has been documenting the drama—conducting interviews with neighborhood residents, architects, officials, rescue workers, and victims’ relatives, as well as key New York players like Mayor Bloomberg, uber-developer Larry Silverstein, and Governor Pataki. Here she provides a warts-and-all look at this pivotal decade—from the bitter feuding between city officials and victims’ families, to the endless controversy over the memorial design, to the fraught tenth anniversary, against a still-unfinished building. Publishing just as the memorial is finally completed, Battle for Ground Zero is an exhaustively researched reminder of how long it took to put a brave face on the horror of 9/11.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The tension between commerce and commemoration at the World Trade Center site is given a riveting narrative construction by urban anthropologist Greenspan. Among the many questions Greenspan addresses is how to recreate millions of square feet of commercial office space on a site that has become a national symbol of mourning and, in some quarters, rage. Within days of the disaster, plans to rebuild arose amid contrasting, often conflicting, attempts to define what the site represented, and what it should become. From disaster area to graveyard to tourist attraction to construction site, Greenspan utilizes years of reporting on Ground Zero for the Atlantic Monthly and other publications, to create an engrossing and evolving portrait of unrealized expectations and political gamesmanship. Constantly returning to the streets surrounding Ground Zero, Greenspan captures the mood of both New Yorkers and the nation, as devout attempts by those less affected to claim a piece of spiritual ownership of 9/11 transform into frat-boy antics of jingoistic posturing in some cases, and developers battle designers over memorial space, while politicians opportunistically hover. As One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) approaches completion, Greenspan’s exactingly researched and artistically rendered reportage thoughtfully details its twisting journey upward. Agent: Irene Goodman, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Library Journal
When the World Trade Center towers were brought down on 9/11, many wondered how the site might be reconstituted, if at all. Greenspan (writing program, Harvard Coll.) takes readers through what has happened, showing a sensitive awareness, largely informed by interviews with parties involved, visits to the site, and her past writings on the subject, e.g., for the Atlantic Monthly. From the start, Ground Zero has been a controversial topic. Should it become a memorial site? A burial ground? A commercial space? A hybrid one? Greenspan skillfully dissects the issues and dispassionately examines proposed designs, master plans for the entire site, and, most important, the involvement of various parties (governmental agencies, politicians, advisory groups, family members of victims, real estate developers, architects, etc.) battling to be heard. In spite of fractious debates, hostile legal actions, and agonizing delays, remarkable progress has been made. Greenspan notes the memorial honoring the victims, finished in time for 9/11's tenth anniversary, and the "Freedom Tower" (now known simply as One World Trade Center), to be completed in 2014. Sadly, with various disputes ongoing, this story is far from over. VERDICT Greenspan has done yeoman service here. An absorbing book, essential for those studying post-9/11 New York, and urban planners or scholars researching how a city can rebuild or memorialize a devastated site.—Richard Drezen, Jersey City, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
A well-tempered account of the fraught political struggles over the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. Greenspan (Urban Anthropology/Harvard) is not a New Yorker; she was raised in Philadelphia and now lives in Boston. This distance on the subject, as well as her training, may account for her ability to keep her head above the fray. Despite her "outsider" status, Greenspan paid close attention to developments at ground zero from the earliest days after 9/11. She interviewed not only major players, including former New York governor George Pataki, commercial real estate developer Larry Silverstein, designer Daniel Libeskind, Port Authority Chairman Christopher Ward, and surviving family members and activists, but also "ordinary" people--tourists, lower Manhattan residents, 9/11 truthers and members of Occupy Wall Street--to get at the broad range of meanings of the disaster to the city, the nation and the world. Considering how different those meanings are to different people, it's a virtual miracle any progress on reconstruction was made. From early on, the Port Authority, which owned the land, and Silverstein, who owned the buildings on it, struggled to balance their need to rebuild commercial space with expectations from families and politicians to respect the "sacred" ground believed to contain the irretrievable remains of up to a third of those killed in the attacks. Winner of an international competition to create a master plan for the space, Libeskind saw his design altered to the point where only the height of his proposed Freedom Tower remained. Greenspan also tells the fascinating stories of the most contentious controversies, including the Freedom Center, a well-connected, well-meaning educational organization crushed by popular opposition, and the Islamic Center two blocks north of ground zero, which weathered a similar campaign in 2010. A must-read study of the power of democracy and shared memory to shape our public spaces.
From the Publisher
“Elizabeth Greenspan, an urban anthropologist, vividly recounts the dysfunctional process and controversies that put her favorite graffiti, 'America the Re-build-iful,' to a grueling test that is only now about to be graded by the public… a valuable and highly accessible primer for everyone who wants to better understand how government works and why it does not.” — The New York Times

“Riveting... an engrossing and evolving portrait of unrealized expectations and political gamesmanship…Greenspan’s exactingly researched and artistically rendered reportage thoughtfully details its twisting journey upward.” —Publishers Weekly

"A must-read study of the power of democracy and shared memory to shape our public spaces." —Kirkus (Starred Review)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230341388
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/20/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 637,974
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Greenspan is a writer and urban anthropologist currently teaching at Harvard University.  She writes regularly about Ground Zero for The Atlantic online.  Her writing has also appeared in The Washington Post and The Harvard Review, among other publications, and she has worked for the Associated Press Rome Bureau, and National Journal magazine. She has lectured about Ground Zero and 9/11 at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Brandeis College, the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, Temple University, and SUNY-Albany. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

 

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Act I: Visions and Visionaries

Chapter 1: People Come

Chapter 2: The Leaseholder and the Landowner

Chapter 3: Architects

Chapter 4: The Viewing Platform

Chapter 5: The Fence

Chapter 6: The People versus the Port Authority

Act II: Divisions and Delays

Chapter 7: Lady Liberty and the Freedom Tower

Chapter 8: Families

Chapter 9: The Memorial

Chapter 10: The Most Political Place

Chapter 11: Everything Stops

ACT III TK

End Notes

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