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Now that the cleanup is over, the impulse to rebuild is gaining speed--too much speed for some of the families. "The powers that be are moving at a pace that we're having a hard time keeping up with," says Iken. "The families are going to become very vocal about how they're feeling." As much as anything else, it's election-year politics that is driving the process. George Pataki, New York's Republican Governor, is seeking a third term. Andrew Cuomo, the front runner among Democratic contenders, has been criticizing Pataki's management of the rebuilding effort. Pataki's aides say he's indifferent to Cuomo's taunts. The Governor is well ahead in the polls. But he also knows that by November he needs real momentum at ground zero. At the same time, Pataki can't afford to speed things along so briskly that the families go public with complaints that he's driving bulldozers over their grief.
The players in this uneasy game are not at war yet; they are prepared to imagine a rough consensus. The job of mediating among them has fallen largely to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a panel formed by Pataki to oversee rebuilding issues, including a design for the memorial. To head the group he chose John Whitehead, a former cochairman of the Goldman Sachs investment firm, who understands that whatever emerges at the site must not only satisfy the owners, the leaseholders, the locals and the families. It must also be superb. In what is now one of the most profound public spaces in the world, the usual run of mediocre Manhattan office boxes will not do. "I know how important it is to keep the standards high," he says.
Whitehead has brought on as his director of planning Alexander Garvin, a highly regarded urban thinker. But the L.M.D.C. also operates in a not-always-comfortable partnership with the Port Authority. Last month, when the L.M.D.C. invited urban design and architecture firms to submit proposals for developing the site, the P.A. leadership, angry that it had not been consulted, started throwing its weight around. Whitehead's group had to withdraw the requests. Soon after, new ones went out over the names of both bodies, but they bore the plain stamp of the barreling Port Authority. Whereas the L.M.D.C. had called for a plan to be ready by next April, the new schedule wants it by December.
For months Whitehead's board, which is heavy on figures from finance, banking and real estate, has been in listening mode. Whitehead formed advisory panels from small businesses, commuters and the families, among others. At an L.M.D.C.-sponsored gathering in July, 5,000 people will exchange thoughts at an interactive "town meeting." But the faster calendar has unnerved family and community groups, who say it cuts them out. Charles Gargano, P.A. vice chairman, insists the schedule is still open to outside influence. "We moved quickly where we had to," he says. "But we have reached out to all the stakeholders."
The Port Authority, which built and operates the New York-area port facilities, airports, tunnels and bridges, is famous for its engineering achievements. Its judgment in architecture is another matter. It was former P.A. chief Austin Tobin who chose Minoru Yamasaki to design the Twin Towers. Just a few years later, the city of St. Louis, Mo., blew up Yamasaki's much despised Pruitt-Igoe housing project. A large crowd there turned out to cheer.