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“The story of 9/11 is in part a story of architecture—after all the Twin Towers were targeted for their profile in the skyline more than for the companies within them. The demand for architectural icons and symbols in the rebuilding of Ground Zero was intensely politicized, and revealed the outsized role of real estate developers and star architects. Sadly, in a city with incredible design expertise, this has resulted in a series of banal corporate office buildings with little actual public space, and a kitschy transportation center that is really a shopping mall. In addition, all of this represents a massive transfer of billions of public funds to the private sector. The New York public deserved a lot better.

— Terrorism in American Memory: Memorials, Museums, and Architecture in the Post-9/11 Era (NYU Press 2022)

It is crucial to understand the Swindle At Ground Zero because the mechanics that undermined the will of the people — a bipartisan majority of American citizens — are common practices in government and media.

Following 9/11, officials apparently believed that establishing the ends they chose for us justified the deceptive means that required. They claimed that their plan was the result of the popular will and a tribute to the democratic spirit. That was and is demonstrably untrue, but the media promoted that fiction instead of giving the people the facts.

We will back up what we say with conclusive facts regarding this important history once our “Phase Two” proposal is fully developed. In the meantime, we recommend the following video. It was created by a teen-aged supporter in 2013 and even though it features a Michael Bloomberg press conference, it is a rebuke to all officials who think they know better than the people they were elected to serve.

We know that workers were devoted to rebuilding the World Trade Center, but it is likely that most of them would have been far more inspired if they had been allowed to rebuild the Twin Towers. In the months following the attacks it was said that construction workers offered to work for free if they could be part of their revival. That spirit is captured here:

The world changed overnight on September 11, 2001, and officials likely thought they were doing what was best after the horrifying attacks on our country. But the only way they could have respectfully reconciled the many distinct interests as the rebuilding process unfolded was by allowing the democratic process to operate. It was cynically short-circuited, instead, by functionaries who didn’t trust in the people or our system of government.

As a former senator famously said: “When I feel the heat, I see the light.” But at the World Trade Center site, public opinion didn’t have a chance. Representative democracy doesn’t require elected officials to obey the popular will, but they can’t ignore it either. It is their job to decide what is in the best interests of the public good. But all viewpoints must be represented, respected, and considered. Of all places, that should have been the rule at Ground Zero, where thousands of our fellow citizens were brutally murdered for no other reason than that they were Americans.


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