SACRED GROUND

By WILLIAM NEUMAN
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September 17, 2003 -- The World Trade Center plan to be unveiled today will have no construction in the "footprints" of the Twin Towers - handing family members a victory in an emotionally wrenching dispute.
The design change is intended to placate angry - and increasingly vocal - terror-victim relatives, who were alarmed at the possibility of a bus garage or other infrastructure being built on what they consider sacred ground.

Today's updated version of the WTC master plan by architect Daniel Libeskind will not look markedly different from the one chosen by development officials last February, said Roland Betts, a director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

"The Libeskind plan . . . is 100 percent intact," Betts said yesterday at a meeting of the LMDC board.

Most revisions to the plan came in refining the underground workings of the trade center, reflecting "the enormous complexity of integrating everything below grade [underground] - truck ramps, security, [utilities and transportation]," Betts said.

The issue of below-ground development in the area where the Twin Towers stood is of the utmost importance to many family members, some of whom have never recovered the remains of their loved ones and think of the footprints as a cemetery.

Asked whether any of the ramps, utilities or other infrastructure components will go inside the footprints of the Twin Towers, Betts said, "The infrastructure avoids the footprints entirely."



Greg Trevor, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said: "We're doing everything within our power to respect the footprints, and that is reflected in the master plan."

Betts said the plan does call for truck ramps inside the larger so-called bathtub area of the trade center pit, in the zone around the footprints but not over the footprints themselves.

Jack Lynch, a member of the Coalition of 9/11 Families, called Betts' remarks "a move in the right direction."

But Lynch, who lost his firefighter son Michael on 9/11, said family members are waiting to see the revised plans today before making a judgment.

"I would still love to see the entire bathtub unobstructed by any infrastructure or ramps or anything else, but to hear they are going to at least honor the footprints of the two buildings is a step forward," said Joe Maurer, whose daughter Jill Campbell died at the trade center.

"At least they're listening to us."

The footprints won't be entirely untouched, since the PATH tracks continue to run beneath the spot where the south tower stood. But family members don't object to that because the tracks were there before 9/11.

Last week, several hundred relatives of trade center victims held a ground zero protest calling for no building of any kind within the footprints - which family members define as extending down as much as 70 feet to bedrock - or the adjacent bathtub area.

They charged Gov. Pataki had lied and broken his promise to them that the footprints would be protected.

Pataki's office had no comment yesterday.

A memorial to the terror attack victims is slated to go inside the pit - with about three basement levels below it.

Under pressure from the families, planners had previously pledged to look for a new location for an underground bus garage that initially was proposed to go below the memorial - and the LMDC is now considering a site in Battery Park City for the buses.

The revised site plan calls for adding two new parcels to the trade center, expanding the site below Liberty Street onto the property now occupied by the Deutsche Bank building and an adjacent lot.

However, the Deutsche Bank property is tied up in litigation and it is not clear if the damaged office tower there will be torn down, a necessary condition for incorporating the land into the WTC plan.


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