Smalltiming at Ground Zero

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Proposed Fulton Street Transit Center /Photo: METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

They’re doing it again. Every time you turn around the grand vision for Ground Zero is ground down another notch. This time it’s a two-fer — why not screw up two of the still unbuilt portions of the project at one time? One of those would be the performing arts center that Frank Gehry is designing — one of the last of the cultural venues that was supposed to keep Ground Zero from being rebuilt as nothing more than a clutch of office towers around a memorial. The other is the sizeable subway station that’s supposed to provide a unified hub for the tangle of 12 subway lines that pass through the area. (Not to be confused with the much larger PATH train station nearby, designed by Santiago Calatrava, which is still going forward.)

While I was on the road, Avi Schick, who heads the Empire State Development Corporation, the New York State body that channels funding to big projects, and who also heads the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which has a role in overseeing the re-emergence of the World Trade Center neighborhood, “suggested” that the theater might be moved out of the Trade Center site and plunked on top of the subway station, which was supposed to be an above-ground glass structure that would culminate in a glass dome — you know, something nice. As you would expect, it’s all about budget, which is another way of saying priorities. Moving the theater would mean reducing the subway station to a standard dark hole in the ground while ensuring that Ground Zero lives up to its name.

New York State is asking New York City to examine the idea for 30 days and get back to them. So for now it’s still just a trial balloon. Who’s got a pin?