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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
New York may get twin piers
Impression of New York harbour with piers
The twin piers would look like reflections of the towers
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By Matt Wells in New York
line

New York's "Tribute in Light" - two powerful beams projecting up into the night sky from the site of the Word Trade Center - was switched off at the weekend.

They symbolised the Twin Towers and provided a temporary memorial for thousands of city dwellers who are still coming to terms with September 11.


This is something that we want to take a long time to think about

Judy Duffy, local Community Board

The tribute was only designed to last for a month, and the debate about more permanent memorials to the dead is at an early stage.

Redeveloping the site itself will provoke the greatest controversy. Some relatives' groups are already saying that no building should take place there at all, as some bodies will never be reclaimed. They argue that it should stay "hallowed ground".

Solution

But one New York-based architectural writer, Fred Bernstein, believes that he has a solution for providing a fitting memorial away from the site itself.

Map of New York Harbour
Despite their size it is claimed the piers would not hinder shipping

His bold plan calls for the construction of two piers, which would begin at Battery Park, a small area of grass and pathways at the southern tip of Manhattan, and extend out into the Hudson river.

"One would point at the Statue of Liberty and the other at Ellis Island. Each would be the size of the World Trade Center towers. I think that would very moving.

The floor numbers would be inscribed underfoot, and the names of the victims who died on each floor as well," says Bernstein.

Practical benefit

He believes the memorial would have a practical benefit beyond showing future generations the sheer scale of the towers that are lost.

It could be done quickly, as it avoids any use of land, and would provide new ferry routes to popular destinations. He argues that shipping lanes will not be affected, as three-quarters of the Hudson River will still be navigable.

The Bernstein proposal is certainly finding favour within the architecture and design community.

One backer, the Brooklyn-based architect Craig Konyk, says it would be in the "heroic tradition" of New York's best buildings.

"The site isn't yet prepared to have something happen, it may be a year or two away before they start actual construction," he says.

Non-starter

Numerous agencies are involved in the slow process of rebuilding Lower Manhattan, which will include several memorials.

One government group with a voice on the development corporation that is overseeing it all is the local Community Board.

Its assistant district manager, Judy Duffy, is a veteran of past development battles, including the Hudson River Park. She thinks the proposal is a non-starter.

Aerial view of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, New York
There is still much debate over the future of Ground Zero

"This is something that we want to take a long time to think about. The piers are going to a very expensive quick fix," she says.

"And I believe it will probably raise a lot of controversy, especially from environmental groups."

Apart from breaking the national limit for pier lengths by "at least 500 feet", Mrs Duffy thinks it would take years to overcome the hurdles.

What the people who live around Ground Zero want to see now, she says, are a series of small shop-front memorials.

"We've got a large number of tourists who are coming through the neighbourhood. Just to spread that bulk of people out would be helpful."

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