Biography of an Architectural Icon

coverI started reading this book, Divided We Stand, a biography of the building of the World Trade Center.

Written before the collapse on September 11, though informed by the earlier bombing in 1993, the author offers context and cultural comment on what was arguably the world’s most famous building (were they one or two buildings?). What is especially shocking is that not only was it one of the last cataclysmic ‘urban-renewal’ mega-schemes held over from the 60s, (it was completed in 1972), that eliminated 16 blocks of low-income (though thriving) commercial space, but also it was the largest government-sponsored real estate speculation in the history of the world.

Managed by the Port Authority of NY & NJ, a dubious organization, it was pitched as a ‘vertical-port’, to replace the decaying shipyards below, (which were traded quid pro quo to NJ for their ‘ok’ to build the WTC). What it became, was a state-sponsored plaything for the Rockefeller brothers, (both Governor Nelson, and Chase Manhattan CEO David). With massive tax breaks for tenants, the city of New York lost millions of dollars in tax revenue, and by the mid-1970s was bankrupt.

President Ford, at first, decided to let NY wallow, but political pressure forced him to organize a bailout. Funny. How could you consider letting America’s first city implode, and expect to get elected as America’s first citizen?

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