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WTC: The View From Queens

By the time the 44 floodlights of the temporary World Trade Center memorial were extinguished in the tender hours of last Sunday morning, thousands of Queens residents and other New Yorkers had been saddened and inspired by the soaring tribute.
With the closing of the poignant month-long spectacle and last weeks release of a preliminary development proposal for the World Trade Center and its surrounding area, the rush to rebuild lower Manhattan seems more palpable than ever.
The proposal, by the State-sponsored Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC), includes a memorial museum, an expanded transportation hub and street grid, and the development of new cultural institutions and open spaces. Its a rebuilding process that LMDC chairman John Whitehead called an "extremely complicated matter," adding, "in the end, the plan has to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle."
Local players
Despite the sizable physical distance between Queens and the WTC, powerful local elected officials will have a significant voice in deciding the future of lower Manhattan the use of its land, the contours of its skylines, the routes to and from its core and the expenditures on its grandeur.
City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) is chairman of the Councils transportation committee. Like the LMDC, he favors a multi-modal transportation hub that would link the subway to the PATH train and eventually the LIRR. But Liu said that the LMDC plan isnt integrated enough and doesnt create the hub he envisions, one that would ease the inconvenience of transferring subway lines and incorporate water traffic, like ferries, into the mix.
Still, he was happy to see the groups preliminary report.
"Im pleased to see more details," he said. "Because up until this point there has been a lot of talk, but not a lot of details."
City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), who heads the Councils Economic Development Committee, said while the Councils influence on the future of the WTC is clearly growing, he is concerned that the publics is not. He believes that the LMDC and other decision-making boards should "be widened to take in the diversity of New York City."
David Weprin (D-Hollis), who heads the Councils Finance Committee, estimated that since being elected last fall, he has spent at least 70% of his time dealing with either the Citys $4 billion budget deficit or the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. Thats more than twice the time he expected to spend on non-Queens matters when he first took office.
"Were all in this crisis together," said Weprin. "The people of Queens feel it as much as the people of Manhattan."
Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) agrees. The head of the Councils seminal Land Use Committee said that the investment of time local officials are making in refurbishing lower Manhattan and replenishing the Citys coffers is a good thing for Queens.
"The work that we are doing is designed to help every one of my constituents," said Katz. "You cant separate the economic situation in Manhattan from Queens or anywhere else in the City."
Family matters
While the role of Queens legislators in rebuilding lower Manhattan appears certain, whats less clear is how much say the families of Sept. 11s victims and others who were personally impacted by the attack will have in determining the size and scope of any future memorials and development.
None of the four key appointments recently made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the LMDC is a victim representative, as many had hoped.
"They havent gone out of their way to consult me," said Lorraine Gill, mother of Paul Gill, one of 43 firefighters from Queens who perished on Sept. 11, along with three local police officers and another three officers from the Port Authority force.
"I havent had the heart to go down to lower Manhattan, except once. Its just too sad."
A total of 205 of the 1,155 New York City victims of Sept. 11 called Queens home. That includes more than 43 firefighters from neighborhoods across the borough, as well as three firefighters and three members of the Port Authority police force.
There are victims from Jackson Heights and Jamaica, from Ozone Park and Belle Harbor, Ridgewood and Whitestone. There are dead and missing with last names like Bates and Barzvi, Coleman and Calhoun, Feehan and Farino, Maldonado and Maloy, Wang and Waters, Zempoaltecatl and Zukelman.
"Some days are easier than others, but no day is easy," said Al Santora, an Astoria resident whose son Christopher was one of the firefighters killed on Sept. 11.
Community School District 30 has decided to name a school, still under construction, in Chris Santoras memory. A street will also soon be named in honor of the firefighter.
Santora said that while he favors a larger tribute for victims at the WTC site, he believes that they also should be honored with more intimate tributes in their own neighborhoods.
"The memory of my son is with me and my family all the time, and Im sure that the other families feel the same way about the loved ones theyve lost. I just hope that the City remembers that."

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