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As is the case with all issues of perspective, our view of the World Trade Center has changed dramatically in the past 365 days. How you view the World Trade Center once depended largely on your vantage point. In a very important sense, this is no longer true.

A year and a day ago–when we were all much cockier–the WTC was defined by personal experience. To many, the WTC was an international symbol of commerce and–ironically–peace. (The theory behind the World Trade Center being that when people do business together, they don’t fight. So much for theories.)

To most New Yorkers, it was a symbol of the city’s diversity and vibrancy–on both commercial and social scales–something in the background of our lives that gently reminded us of who we were. To me, as a Long Islander working in Manhattan, it was both a tourist destination and, when duty called, a meeting point for business. From a distance (read all communities west of the Hudson), the WTC was another monolithic trophy–possible only in a city like New York.

Today, regardless of your vantage point, our views of the World Trade Center have changed and unified. It has become a symbol of loss, for the families whose loved ones were in the towers that morning, for the city as a whole and indeed for the nation. And over the past year the World Trade Center has also evolved into a symbol of renewal.

Unfortunately, the necessity to renew has been lost in the morass of political correctness in which the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has mired itself, and we find ourselves–one year after the attacks–without even a viable plan. The most concrete guidelines we have for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan is a set of vague criteria that has been bandied about for at least 10 years: the need to create a 24/7 community, the necessity to improve mass transit, the call for more traffic-generating retail. But specific plans on how to bring those good ideas to life simply don’t exist. We had plans–six of them, in fact–but the public hue and cry they brought sent the LMDC scurrying in fear back to the drawing boards and today, Ground Zero is again at Square One.

This indicates a major lack of leadership in the entire process. Lower Manhattan, the city, the nation–and especially the survivors of 9/11–deserve more. How best to honor all those we lost, to assist in the closure of that massive hole in our landscape and our psyche, to honor the much-touted American spirit of resolve than to identify a redevelopment plan and pursue it aggressively?

Clearly, the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan would be a massively complex task even if it weren’t tied so tightly to the emotions of the nation. But that redevelopment process is mired even more in such issues, with the equity stakes of the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein–as well as the latter’s insurance hassles–prime among them. That process should not be muddied still more by the LMDC’s need to make decisions by committee.

Local leaders and members of the redevelopment effort have called for the appointment of a decision-maker who could take the heat for the commercial redevelopment and push to get things done, leaving the memorial to the public forums. Even the folks who gathered for the most recent town hall meeting called the LMDC on the carpet for its excessive slowness.

We fully understand and respect the need of the people to have a hand in the redevelopment of Downtown Manhattan. As Julie Menin, head of Wall Street Rising, says, it is the people of Lower Manhattan who must live on a day-to-day basis with whatever is put up in the crater that was once the World Trade Center. We believe, however, that the creation of workable commercial buildings–office, multifamily and retail–must be left to the professionals. The creation of a suitable Memorial site is a fully appropriate place for the public to have its say.

Getting back to the concept of perspectives, the nation as a whole has a new stake in Lower Manhattan, one that transcends local claims. The developers, the lawyers, the insurers must hear the cry to rebuild and they must band together for resolution–not dispute, and not false starts–and begin the appointment of a leadership entity that will indeed lead. These talks, and they should be closed-door conversations rather than public forums, must begin now.

The nation as a whole deserves no less.

What are your thoughts? Please respond to this GlobeSt.com editorial at: [email protected]

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