Idea Of The Day

Should the World Trade Center Be Rebuilt?

Old New York” refers to a lost world that can be summoned by black-and-white photographs and the writing of, for example, Edith Wharton or Joseph Mitchell or Dawn Powell. Now the notion of Old New York should include the World Trade Center, although it will be remarkably strange to write about those massive silver towers, with those vaguely Islamic flourishes toward the bottom of each column, in the past tense. That said, some people have suggested that the World Trade Center should be rebuilt. Among the advocates of such a restoration is former Mayor Ed Koch. “We have the plans,” he informed viewers on television last week. Others may argue that such a gesture, although admirably defiant, might not be the best memorial to those who died last week and that a rebuilt World Trade Center could become a fresh target for terrorists. Moreover, as Edith Iglauer’s 1972 New Yorker article reminds one, a plan to rebuild would demand another Herculean construction effort. “The total weight of Trade Center’s skyscrapers, the Customs Building, and half of the plaza,” Iglauer wrote, “would come to a million and a quarter tons, or twelve times as much as the weight of the George Washington Bridge, including its concrete decks, its steel anchorages, and everything but vehicles.” (At the time of writing, firemen and construction workers have removed approximately 40,000 tons of steel and rubble from what is now known as Ground Zero.) Whether the World Trade Center will be rebuilt or not remains to be seen, but the reason for building the towers and their neighboring pavilions in the first place—to revive the economic fortunes of Lower Manhattan —has suddenly and horrifically returned.