12.13.2005

What's Emerging at Ground Zero

I’ve been real busy and neglectful of the Blog.  For that I apologize.  Just so you don’t get bored and forget about me, here is an Op-ed I wrote about NYC and Ground Zero:


Ground Zero continues to be a source of fascination.  While the tragedies of 9/11 will always remain a scar on the psyches of New Yorkers and the nation, the physical healing of the site has only just begun.   Insights form New York City history and the modern science of Emergence is helping politicians, developers and engineers rebuild lower Manhattan.  
     I applaud the multiplicity involved in Ground Zero’s reconstruction.  The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), a joint state-city corporation governed by a 16-member board of directors, is a sign of great progress for this city.  
In the days of Robert Moses, power would never have been distributed this broadly.  Moses alone would have chosen both the reconstruction plan and the contractors.  He would have likely used the opportunity to push through his failed Lower-Manhattan Expressway or Brooklyn Battery Bridge projects.  Or else, he would have replaced the sterile office complex of the World Trade Centers with something even larger.
He would have healed the Ground Zero site with an ugly scar, like the one rusting at the Worlds Fair grounds or like the strangling highways that surround Manhattan today.
     While Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki are currently caught in a power struggle that would have been familiar in Moses’ era, theirs is a more balanced fight than anything with which Moses would have been involved.  The Lower Manhattan Development Board is half appointed by the Governor of New York and half by the Mayor of New York, something to which Moses never would have agreed.
The infighting between our Mayor and our Governor for say over the reconstruction of Ground Zero is a sign of healing in a post-9/11 and post-Moses world.
Moses’ strongest and most successful opponent, Jane Jacobs, intuitively grasped the lessons of the modern science of Emergence.  Emergence is the science of bottom up organization, like that of ant colonies or the human brain.  Jacobs sees cities as operating under these same, self-organizing rules.
In The New Yorker, Jacobs is said to disagree with restoring the grid of streets near Ground Zero.  She said there, “I was at a school in Connecticut where the architects watched paths that the children made in the snow all winter, and then when spring came they made those the gravel paths across the green. Why not do the same thing here?”  Her proposal is right out the textbooks of Emergence.  
The developers seem to have accepted Jacobs’ suggestion, at least for Cortlandt Street, where they will construct a multilevel, glass-walled shopping galleria called Cortlandt Way instead of reopening the regular thoroughfare.  This space will increase the random interactions of multiple agents (in this case people) that produce the self-organizing structure of emergent systems.  A regular street limits these interactions, as pedestrians are limited to sidewalks and separated from each other by streets.  
The more open nature of the Cortlandt Way mirrors the more open process of development going on in lower Manhattan.  Both are encouraging signs for the future of this great city.

4 comments:

josh becker said...

I hope that the slow but beautifully consistent rebuilding of lower manhattan mirrors the future regrowth of the hair on your head, so people can marvel at both rehabilitations in all their glory, wondering if one had really spawned the other.

Sammy C. said...

Marvelous! Inspirational! Informal! Sexy as ever! Great stuff my man.

jeremiah said...

again sammy c. no one knows you and please explain yourself.

Sammy C. said...

ey, jeremiah maybe you need to do some explaining but I am all sweetness over here so lay off..