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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
New York ponders Ground Zero's future
The World Trade Center collapse site is nearly cleared of debris with only a few levels of the parking structure standing on Friday
The World Trade Center is nearly clear of debris

As New York officially winds up its clean-up efforts this week from the 11 September terror attacks, there are still fears that the city's downtown area may become a ghost town.

In an effort to stem the tide of fleeing businesses and to bring others back, city and state officials have been pushing a commodity well known on Wall Street - cash.

A company relocating to downtown, the heart of New York's financial district, may be eligible for millions of dollars in incentives as part of a concerted effort by local, state and federal governments to drive redevelopment.

Despite the bonus, many firms displaced by the attacks have decided neighbouring communities surrounding Manhattan are more attractive venues.

Recovery units from the New York City fire and police departments raking through debris in search for victims remains
Workers continue to search for human remains
The World Trade Center complex housed more than 50,000 workers before suicidal hijackers slammed two airliners into them last September.

Deadlines loom

When officials gather Thursday at 1029 EDT (1429 GMT) - the exact time when the second tower collapsed - to announce the end to the clean-up, they will be ushering in the movement to redevelop the area, since known as Ground Zero.

Some fear the harmony and brotherhood that has been emblematic of the clean-up efforts will be lost among competing visions of what qualities a new World Trade Center should embody.

Most contentious is likely to be the extent of a memorial to the 2,800 victims who perished when the towers collapsed.

A few surviving family member who had loved ones that died would like to see the entire area be made into memorial park - not a likely scenario.

A quilt fashioned after a US flag bears the names of 346 firefighters who died 11 September
Dead firefighters' names adorn a quilt on display
Design-firm Beyer Blinder Belle has been selected to oversee the rebuilding of downtown.

The company is best known for its work on the restoration of Grand Central Terminal as well as Ellis Island.

Some deadlines are already in place. By July, the design for a memorial is expected along with half a dozen plans for the trade centre site.

The proposals will be winnowed to one by December with an overall site design to be submitted in June 2003.

Construction is already set to begin next month on the land where 7 World Trade Center once stood - just north of Ground Zero.

Stay or go?

With businesses weighing numerous options, what will become of the 16-acre pit where buildings once stood remains to be seen.

Some companies that formerly occupied the towers have scattered their operations in several offices in neighbouring New York counties and the states of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Having satellite offices is a strategy more and more firms view as pragmatic following the terror attacks.

Pedestrian with American flag in pocket
Patriotism still abounds
Some point to the loss of 658 employees at bond-trader Cantor Fitzgerald, which occupied 250,000 square feet of space on five floors of the World Trade Center.

In March, Cantor announced it was relocating many of the surviving employees to a temporary office in Manhattan's upper east side, after occupying several locations in New Jersey, Manhattan and Connecticut.

Other firms have elected to stay, rallying around Wall Street in the same way many Americans have embraced the US flag as a show of patriotism.

Earlier this month, financial-services giant American Express reoccupied its headquarters at its building adjacent to the World Trade Center site at 3 World Financial Center.

The move followed a similar one by brokerage Merrill Lynch in March, which also has its offices in the World Financial Center.

Financial centre

Also of concern is what is to become of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which was set to begin building a new headquarters last November.

Surveyors examine the base of the last standing steel beam from the collapsed south tower of the World Trade Center
The last steel beam was cut down on Tuesday
Following the terror attacks, however, New York City is no longer able to afford the millions of dollars in subsidies once promised to the Big Board by former-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to fend off a defection to New Jersey.

The city's new mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, has said he would like to see the NYSE stay in lower Manhattan.

At any rate, he said, "it is inconceivable to me that they would move out of town."

"This is the Big Apple," Mayor Bloomberg said. "This is the world financial centre."

That reasoning failed to influence another major stock exchange, the Nasdaq, from announcing on Tuesday that it, too, was abandoning lower Manhattan for a midtown location.

Nasdaq officials, however, noted their move had little to do with the September attacks.

Rather, Nasdaq is consolidating its operations in the city's central business district where its premier Nasdaq Market Site is already situated.

The BBC's Jane Hughes
"The symbolic end to more than eight months of gruelling work"
See also:

17 May 02 | Americas
04 May 02 | Entertainment
29 May 02 | Americas
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