cunny matters logo


February 2002
CUNY Responds: Rebuilding New York
CUNY Alumnus/Prize-winning Journalist Reports from Islamabad, Jalalabad, Kabul
City Tech Students Envision Rebuilding St. Nicholas Church
U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins Mulls Emergency Service of Verse
John Jay College and FEMA Address Urban Hazards
Helping Students Write about Trauma
Biography of a Life Cut Violently Short
CUNY Law Practice In the Public Interest Since 9/11
Graduate Center 9/11 Digital Archive
Windows on the World Chef Returns to City Tech following 9/11
Walt Whitman Sums Up “Human and Heroic New York”
Inaugural Conference on "Women and Work"
For Alzheimer’s Patients Life’s a Stage
Kingsborough Center Incubator of Global Virtual Enterprises
Governor Proposes State Budget
White House Urged to Support Pell Grant Increase
President Jackson Named to Schools Board
Fine Way To Learn About Steinway

City College Scholar-Director Chosen Cultural Affairs Commissioner by Mayor

Claire Shulman Honored by QCC

CUNY Counsel Elected Legal Aid Society Chair

Law Dean Glen Honored by State Bar

“American Art at the Crossroads”—
April Symposium at Graduate Center

Challenging Summer for Students in Vassar/CUNY Program


rebuilding new york logo

Introduction | Architect | Sociologist | Civil Engineer | Art Historian
NY Historian | Immigration Lawyer | Political Scientist | Public Safety Expert

In his brilliant essay, Here Is New York, E.B. White had occasion to remark on a subtle change he observed among New Yorkers, namely, their new sense of how "the city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges. . ." Incredibly, those grimly prophetic words first appeared in 1949, just after the end of World War II.

But in the same essay White gave ample reason to believe that, however terrible the destruction wrought on September 11, the "fantasy" of civilization, freedom, and free enterprise that is New York City cannot be destroyed. The city, White wrote, "makes up for its hazards and deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin—the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled."

Large doses of that vitamin have been coursing through New Yorkers in the last several months, and nowhere more so than at the City University of New York. The spirit of rebuilding—and rebuilding even better than before—has been demonstrated on countless fronts by thousands of CUNY faculty, students, alumni, and staff.

This issue of CUNY Matters is devoted to sampling the ways the University has become an integral player in the rebuilding process. CUNY's mission has always been to serve its community, and the accompanying articles clearly suggest that members of the University family will play a vital part in returning the city to its "mighty and unparalleled" self. Following are viewpoints from eight distinguished CUNY faculty members.

rebuilding logo

George Ranalli
George Ranalli, Dean, CUNY School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, City College.
There is one very positive aspect to the challenge before us, namely, the opportunity to enlarge our scope and vision. The widespread negative press for the WTC by some powerful critics such as Ada Louise Huxtable and Paul Goldberger has faded over the years. We came to love the Twin Towers simply because the buildings were a part of our lives.

Now we can begin considering rebuilding by rethinking the matrix of access between Wall Street, Chinatown, Tribeca, and the Hudson River. Perhaps, we should place new high-rise structures closer to the River's edge, while creating a grand gesture on the existing site—something dramatic like the esplanade in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Time and considerable patience are necessary for everyone with a stake in its outcome to deliberate properly. If there is any trap, it is one of being too restrictive at the outset; all possibilities should be considered, despite any sense of urgency. The World Trade Center site has become one of the most complex parcels of land in American history. The extended conversation about its future is a very loaded one: emotionally, culturally, and financially. Foremost, I believe, it is important to remember that ground zero is hallowed ground. How we answer the rebuilding question thus assumes a metaphysical dimension, and we must carefully investigate how to come to terms with a memorial. Then there is the very substantial pressure to restore the area to economic vitality by returning office space to occupancy and bringing the workforce back.

We have a golden opportunity to produce an extraordinary response. We are not merely cleaning up the site and providing the necessary project area. This is the moment for a visionary plan, one that synthesizes a memorial with a rebuilt Lower Manhattan—an urban response worthy of the history of New York City's public works.

rebuilding logo

Sharon Zukin
Sharon Zukin, Broeklundian Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center; author of The Culture of Cities, and co-editor, After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City (May 2002).

Our nerves are still raw. First the shock of the attack—the initial disbelief, the retreat into a terror-film scenario, the round-the-clock news coverage, but on only one station in my un-cabled home because all other station transmitters had been tethered to the top of the WTC. Compelled to watch it on TV and to listen to the radio: war news from just a few blocks away. Was this just another disaster—or was it the disaster that would cause New York City to fall? The Twin Towers and the Tower of Babel. . .the incredible hubris of claiming to be "the capital of capital, in the capital of culture," "the capital of the world". . . the rightness of the phrase "World Trade Center." Though the city has always been deeply involved in maritime trade, airplane flights, flows of capital, bursts of information, and commercial networks of every kind, these buildings were our chips in the great poker game among cities to monitor and dominate exchanges of every kind throughout the world. The thought that we are economically dependent on doing well in this game makes us more critical, yet also more thoughtful, of what will be rebuilt—and what might be lost—in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

The skyline, for example. We think fondly of the towers now that they are no longer there. Though they were grafted by force on the small-scale streetscape of the Lower West Side, we remember them as if they were holding up the sky in an ancient landscape—the giant peaks with smaller skyscrapers nestling like foothills all around them we remember them silhouetted against the river and the clouds.

Lower Manhattan. The massive efforts, through financial subsidies and promotion, to keep Wall Street as a functioning commercial core may conflict with the desires of companies to decentralize, to move to cheaper and more efficient locations, and to cut personnel. What effect will electronics have on the neighborhood's dense concentration of jobs? Will the cachet of a Wall Street location continue to lure financial firms, or will they maintain only a shadow presence, while shifting their real work out of state, even overseas?

Cultural capital. Will Lower Manhattan continue its movement toward being a cultural center? The Twin Towers were already overshadowed, in reputation if not in size, by the restaurants of Tribeca, the movement of museums downtown, and the domesticated nature of Hudson River Park. Can this be an economically and socially viable alternative?

The politics. Redevelopment, the memorial, the uses of the site—all will fan the flames of conflict. If the entire city has a stake in the jobs, reputation of, and access to the space, who should speak for these broad interests? Tensions are built into the redevelopment program and the state-appointed commission. Shouldn't Community Board 1 have assumed the major coordinating role? Is it predetermined that the big financial firms will speak for us all?

rebuilding logo
Civil Engineer

Robert Paaswell, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, City College
The WTC attack destroyed one of the city's two concentrations of astonishing density (the other is Midtown), more density even than there is in London or Tokyo. As we begin the task of rebuilding Lower Manhattan, the challenge in the transportation community is to think well beyond the way people and goods moved on September 10—to plan for the City of 2040 or 2050. After all, the systems destroyed, notably the subways, were about one hundred years old.

As we plan such a system, a few fundamental common assumptions can be suggested. First, the site belongs to the world, reflecting the city's place in the global market. The new development should reflect the world converging on this site as a symbol of freedom and global diversity.

Second, the return to high density seems to me inevitable. Since the 1600s, Lower Manhattan has been the place to be, and it has now become one of the most valuable real estate parcels in the world. The very dynamics of the city—what makes it unique—is the drive for agglomeration and workforce diversity (makers of hot-dogs and the most complex financial instruments thrived Downtown). This intensity is essential to the definition of New York City.

Third, what has supported this density—more than 70,000 persons per square mile—is primarily rail transit. Accessibility is the key, and in replacing the old system, which was facing limits of capacity, the emphasis should be on interconnectivity. What make the Paris and Tokyo subway systems so efficient are their many points of intersection, and this should be the goal for a Lower Manhattan.

Several suggestions for long-term ways of meeting this challenge have emerged: extending PATH and enlarging its stations; reconfiguring the South Ferry and Bowling Green stations; creating a Fulton Street super-station; rail extensions and additions to bus rapid transit and light rail; bringing East Side lines to the West Side; the creation of auto-free zones; and a return to the street grid from the WTC's enormous campus.

Infrastructure investments last a century or more. While we are understandably eager for immediate recapture of the economic market and uniqueness of Lower Manhattan, the picture in mind for reinvestment in transportation should be a New York City of 2021, not a New York City of 2002 or 2005.

rebuilding logo Art Historian

Sally Webster
Sally Webster, Professor of Art History, Lehman College and The Graduate Center; co-editor of Critical Issues in Public Art; her spring course at the Center will be "American Monuments and Memorials."
Amid the discussion of a suitable memorial to September 11, it is important to keep in mind that several groups deserve commemoration: the rescue workers who died, the people of the business community, and all of those associated with it who lost their lives, and those who have worked tirelessly to save lives and clear the rubble.

The deaths of the heroic firefighters and policemen and the gargantuan recovery effort undertaken by construction crews have been detailed and illustrated daily in the press, and we are forever in their debt. But most of the victims were working people—managers, clerks, secretaries, maintenance and security personnel, lawyers, brokers—whose lives had been spent working for or on behalf of American corporations. How do we make their stories heroic? How do we as a city commemorate their contribution to American life?

Over the past few months many ideas have emerged about what such a monument should look like, but I think it would be a mistake to confine ourselves to constructing a single monument, as in Oklahoma City. The Trade Center site is a big 16-acre plot, and the needs of different constituencies can be accommodated.

An obvious group is the rescue workers, including those who died and those who have devoted themselves these past months to clearing and resurrecting the site. A less obvious group is the business community. For the first there are numerous models, modern and ancient, designed to honor heroic deeds, the Vietnam Memorial with its incised reflective granite walls being a recent brilliant example. But I feel it will be important also to remember the unsung heroes, not only those businessmen and women who lost their lives on September 11, but the others whose offices were damaged and destroyed and who are returning to Lower Manhattan to keep the financial community—the economic life blood of the nation—alive. They are in effect "rescue workers" too. (In this context, it is ironic how Seward Johnson's "Double Check," a banal realistic sculpture of a seated businessman looking in his briefcase, was transformed when situated amid the rubble at One Liberty Plaza into a symbol of survival.)

As a permanent memorial, I would like to see in place a memorial that acknowledges our indebtedness to the business community and its contribution to our American way of life.

rebuilding logo
New York Historian

Thomas Kessner
Thomas Kessner, Professor of History at The Graduate Center; author of Fiorello LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York and of the forthcoming Capital Metropolis, a study of New York City's 19th-century rise to pre-eminence as a center of capital markets.
New York has often handled the challenges of recovery by new departures that have often converted tragedy into positive change. After the American Revolution, Manhattan was left a blighted shambles. Half its buildings had been laid waste by fire and vandalism. Its population was diminished by two-thirds, and its wharves were left crumbling. Its trade was fractured. But the city staged a remarkable recovery and went on, over the next generation, to build a vast hinterland and to claim much of America's trans-oceanic trade as it became the hemisphere-leading entrepôt.

The Civil War led to the flight of European capital from Wall Street's money markets. It decimated the highly profitable cotton trade and brought a debt repudiation of many tens of millions of dollars—and terrible draft riots as well. Yet the city emerged from the war as the brace of the national financial system. The volume of war spending boomed the urban economy. Wheat more than replaced cotton, and (more significantly) the war greatly advanced the shift in economic focus from farms to city, from trade to domestic production, from modestly- to generously-capitalized big business.

During the periodic depressions that clouded the late 19th century, many feared that New York City's investment market had expired—all the blood having been squeezed out of its speculative deals and corrupt securities. Meanwhile, others whose names we remember even today—Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and John Pierpont Morgan—all vigorously invested. After each of these crises the city emerged stronger and more prosperous, and with substantial new opportunities that were not limited to its wealthy speculators. The point is that crisis (setting aside the tragic losses) has often resulted in a plastic situation and new possibilities. We are forced to look anew at the city's economic role, but elsewhere as well. Before 9/11 the need to reconceive 16 Downtown acres would have seemed unimaginable. Now we have no choice. Now we must ask "What was wrong with the picture?"and plan differently. In 1871 a consuming inferno laid waste to much of Chicago's wooden residential housing, leaving some 90,000 homeless and reducing downtown to rubble. Within days a modern Chicago began to rise from the burn, and by 1893 Chicago boasted the busiest and most modern downtown in the country.

Sixteen acres and countless relationships, services, economic links and businesses have been torn down. Streets have been cleared. What is left is for us to give this vast area a new shape, a new personality, a new purpose, a fresh and efficient design in line with our view of what our future New York should be.

Immigration Lawyer

Allan Wernick
Allan Wernick, Director of the CUNY Citizenship Project; Professor of Public Administration, Hostos Community College; a lawyer and the author of U.S. Immigration and Citizenship.
Among the victims of 9/11 was the movement for justice for immigrants. Prior to the WTC attacks, hopes were high for passage of a "regularization" program—what most people call "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants—and for other pro-immigrant reforms. Now, in response to the terrorist acts, a variety of institutions in and outside the government are pulling back on their commitment to fairness.

Despite reports that few of the terrorists were here unlawfully, the events of 9/11 have given anti-immigrant restrictionists new life. Still, with many economists predicting an early recovery, I believe the anti-immigrant resurgence will be short-lived. Immigrants¯ contribution to the economic boom of the last ten years and their growing political power make them well positioned to fight off restrictionism. Four issues in particular are likely to feel the impact of 9/11.

Amnesty: Prior to 9/11, President Bush and Mexican President Fox had both expressed commitment to a new "legalization" or "regularization" program. The proposal is still alive. The plan likely to emerge will include a regularization program for undocumented immigrants, a temporary worker program, an increase in visas for Mexicans and Canadians, and a border enforcement program that will enlist Mexico's help in curbing unlawful immigration.

Foreign Students: In the wake of 9/11, the nation's universities successfully fought off efforts to suspend the F-1 visa program for international students. Nevertheless, it is likely that the INS will move forward on existing plans for increased record keeping and reporting.

Border Control: The big debate is over whether to implement a "controlled departure"program. Non-immigrants (for example, students and visitors) would check out when leaving the United States. Thus, the INS would know when someone overstayed. Border states have opposed controlled departure as a threat to tourism and commerce. Unless billions of dollars are added to the INS budget, requiring departure inspections could effectively end international travel.

Dividing the INS: The INS has announced plans to split into two separate bureaus, the Bureau of Immigration Services and Adjudications and the Bureau of Enforcement. Most immigrants' rights advocates are hopeful that dividing the INS will result in better service for deserving applicants.

rebuilding logo
Political Scientist

John Mollenkopf
John Mollenkopf, Professor of Political Science, The Graduate Center; directo, CUNY Center for Urban Research; among his ten books are Contested City (1983), and Dual City: Restructuring New York (1991) and Rethinking the Urban Agenda (2001).

There seem to be at least three major challenges in rebuilding Ground Zero. One is to balance the need to memorialize our loss with other real estate imperatives for this extremely valuable land. This will include rebuilding the fabric of Lower Manhattan in a way that makes it even more inviting than before, knitting Battery Park City together with the rest of the area, and creating a major destination for work, culture, and recreation. It is necessary to do this to maintain downtown as an important constituent part of New York City's overall competitive position.

The second challenge is to seize upon this opportunity to fill missing links in the regional transportation system, make it function more smoothly, and create more seamless connections between, say, JFK, LaGuardia, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, downtown, Exchange Place, the Newark train station area, and Newark airport. Everyone would gain by making these connections stronger, and it would help Lower Manhattan reassert itself against the forces of economic entropy that have been working against it ever since Grand Central Terminal was built.

The final challenge is one of equity. September 11th was a heavy blow against Chinatown and communities where the low wage restaurant and hotel workers lived. The rebuilding process must include them as well as real estate developers, financial service firms, families of the victims, and residents of Battery Park City. BPC is generally thought to be a wonderful urban design accomplishment, and I do not dissent from that view. But they are spaces largely inhabited by young, upper-middle-class urban professionals. We cannot afford to have the WTC reconstruction process simply and only extend this model, which would amount to class legislation in favor of the well-off.

Many other economic strata are represented south of Houston Street, and they also need to be linked organically with what we will now develop. Just as the great PWA and WPA public works of the 1930s said a great deal in physical form about the values of society in that era, what we build now will be our historical legacy.

rebuilding logo
Public Safety Expert

Charles Jennings
Charles Jennings, Director, Graduate Program in Protection Management
John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)
The 9/11 attacks have shaken public confidence in security. While this is understandable, we must be careful not to let our response to the horrors of September 11 become excessive.

There are several dangers associated with unrestrained expenditures – a potential for a cycle of continued fear and response, erosion of privacy and transformation of public spaces into “security zones,” and finally, an imposition of costs in terms of both expenditures and delays that makes Manhattan unattractive as a location for business.

These dangers are all very real. Much of the current security efforts implemented post-9/11 are too costly to maintain, even in New York.

A recent panel on security following 9/11 held at Baruch College and organized by the Newman Real Estate Institute included myself and Profs. Maki Haberfeld of John Jay College and Setha Low of the Graduate Center. The consensus of the panel, consisting of experts on security, policing, and environmental psychology respectively was that the battle against terrorism is best fought on the level of intelligence and incrementally, by making investments in upgrading safety and preparedness for both terrorism and other emergencies such as fires and natural disasters.

Recent programs announced by the NYPD, to undertake a counterterrorism and intelligence initiative, offer potential, but the emphasis should be on gathering of human intelligence and building relationships with foreign police and local communities—not on formation of commando or other paramilitary units.

As money flows in from federal disaster relief, there will be a tendency for officials to overemphasize grandiose technological “solutions” such as public surveillance systems and hardware. While some limited investment in these areas is appropriate, training development, and upgrade of procedures and readiness are more critical.

Preventing suicidal terrorist attacks is extremely difficult, especially given our open society and porous borders.