Thursday, May 19, 2005

New York 2015

Flash forward ten years. Look at the West Side skyline of Manhattan.

Perhaps you see a stadium near the middle and the tallest building in the world at one end. Or not. Maybe you see just the relatively new stadium, but nothing quite so soaring at the southern tip. Or maybe there's an inspiring set of mostly unoccupied towers where once the World Trade Center stood, but no stadium where once a mayor and others had dreams of one.

In the meantime, it's anybody's guess, and the rancor that has colored both debates (over ground zero and the Jets/Olympic stadium) has just made it less appealing to hope for any outcome. I'm a big fan of architecture and interesting modern real estate developments, but certain projects seem so mired in egos and politics and ideals and emotions and other intangibles that it's hard to get excited about them.

The latest? Our friend Trump, who can't seem to keep his nose out of anything, latches onto the Most Original Idea of the Decade: Let's rebuild the Twin Towers the way they were, but just add a floor to make it bigger and better!

Please, Mr. Trump, don't bother to give any credit to the people who have been saying that since Sept. 12, 2001. Or admit that a group called Team Twin Towers has been actively pushing for such a plan for months now. Just resort to that sad and tired line: Doing anything less would be letting the terrorists win. (Can anyone seriously use that argument with a straight face any more?)

I don't mean to belittle in any way the memory of the tragedy of 9/11, but I feel like Trump's entry into this debate marks a depressing turning point and has just proved once again that nothing is sacred if you give it enough time. Fight over supposedly hallowed ground long enough in today's climate, and sooner or later, someone like Trump will see an opportunity to wedge his ego into the mess. This isn't to say that many of the other players are totally innocent, but Trump for me just epitomizes the tawdriness factor.

(Hmm. Sounds like a promising reality-show project ... Tawdriness Factor.)

So years from now, maybe these battles will be all but forgotten the same way it takes post-tragedy documentaries to remind many of us of all the details of the original WTC: how it was going to be on the East Side until New Jersey got mad and felt left out; how it took from the '50s to the '70s for the towers to get build; how many people thought they were ugly and too big and horrible for the skyline, until somewhere along the line they became a thing of beauty and worthy of tourist mementos and countless pizzeria paintings.

But in the meantime, there's another project in which I have much more faith. It's well-funded, well-liked and now relatively resistant to the endless squabbles that have stalled the ground-zero and stadium plans. My money (if I had any) would be on the High Line renovation. That, I will hope for.

No comments: