ENR has been writing about the World Trade Center since the 1960s, when it was merely a proposal. I personally have been covering it since the mid-1980s—starting with the first 7 WTC, continuing with the 1993 bombing and its rebuild and, hopefully, ending with 9/11 and post-9/11 coverage. (On Sept. 11, 2001, as the buildings were burning and collapsing, we redid much of the news section of the Sept. 17 issue, which went to press on Sept. 11. Within about 17 hours, we had written stories on the attacks in NYC and the Pentagon, and gave the reader an idea of what the experts had to say about whether buildings could be designed to resist airplanes used as missiles. When Jan Tuchman and I left the office that night (actually, it was about 1:15 a.m. on Sept. 12), we took the subway home to Brooklyn. The turnstiles were not in use. The ride was free!)
But I digress, as Bette Midler would say. I reported on the controversies, the delays, the redesigns, etc., surrounding the WTC redevelopment, but I never got to "dig deeply" into the politics and drama of it all.
This morning I was "treated" to a press preview of a film that brought the politics into view and with it so many memories—the town hall of 5,000; the press conferences; the play-acting, the grandstanding that I witnessed. As I watched interviews of Larry Silverstein, David Childs, Daniel Libeskind and others, it took me back to the many interviews I conducted and the human interest stories my sources told—some of which made their way into ENR.
This film, called 16 Acres, says very little about the challenges of the cleanup and the reconstruction, from a bricks and mortar standpoint. But it has lots to say about the virtual sticks and stones thrown by the players involved in the real estate development. 16 Acres is almost all about the politics—with some human interest background tidbits. It's a pretty good "see."
The documentary rings true to me—someone who was on the sidelines and still is on the sidelines observing and reporting what many consider the most highly charged development in modern times. The film, which is premiering on Oct. 18 at New York's Architecture & Design Film Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center, gives many different sides of the same subplots. The journalist in me likes that. The port authority versus Silverstein; Childs versus Libeskind; the families of the victims versus Bloomberg and even the memorial's architect.
The film ends as if all the drama is over. There is no mention of the stripping of the spire of One WTC (formerly called the Freedom Tower). There is nothing on the delayed memorial museum—a black eye for the city and the port authority. There is not a single mention of the other cultural venue in the master plan—the long-dormant performing arts center. What's happening with that?
The saga of the WTC redevelopment is far from over. Perhaps Matt Kapp, the writer and co-producer, has a sequel in mind. I hope so.