The resurgence of lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the World Trade Center terror
attack could be significantly hampered by the lack of definitive information on vital
issues and slow or insufficient responses by government agencies, according to testimony
at a series of Assembly hearings co-chaired in recent weeks by Speaker Sheldon Silver.
"There is a long list of practical issues that must be addressed in order to ensure
that commercial and residential vitality return to lower Manhattan, from how and where
air quality is monitored to the structure of assistance programs for small businesses,
" Silver said. "It will take years to rebuild, but there are many steps that we
can and must take right now to preserve economic activity in the area and restore the
confidence of those who live and work there."
Silver is a lifelong resident of the lower Manhattan, and his legislative district
includes the World Trade Center site and the downtown financial district. His office is
located a few blocks from ground zero.
The five hearings -- each of which lasted from four to eight hours -- included testimony
from city, state and federal government officials, business owners, utility service
providers, economic-development professionals, labor, health, medical and environmental
organizations and community groups.
Specific issues discussed at the hearings included the following:
"It is important that we consider all of these issues now, both because of
the central role that New York City plays in the state and national economies, and
because of the significant challenges we face in developing the state budget for the
2002-2003 fiscal year," Silver noted.
He added that the Assembly will also hold additional hearings in January around the
state regarding the upstate economy, higher education, energy policy and other issues
related to the 2002-2003 budget.
Note: Following is a list of the five hearings held to date on lower
Manhattan resurgence and the convening committees for each hearing.
- Conflicting information and lack of coordination regarding air quality in
Witnesses indicated that there has been little or no coordination of air
quality testing, and noted that, while individual substances in the air may be at
acceptable levels, little is known about the effect of the combination of substances
that have been detected. "Residents and businesses do not have one place to call
to get definitive information on this, and people are concerned because they have
not been able to get answers," Silver said.
- Difficulty for businesses, especially small businesses, in accessing
Silver and other Assembly members learned that a $250 million emergency loan
program for small business in lower Manhattan has disbursed just $18 million.
Business owners testified that sales were off as much as 40 percent, but noted that
assistance programs did not offer the type of support they required or had
application processes that were unnecessarily burdensome.
- Need for more extensive marketing of New York City as a tourist destination
Travel, tourism and related enterprises generate billions of dollars in revenues
and provide thousands of jobs in New York City. Tourism in the city is down an
estimated 40 percent since September 11, and the city convention and visitors bureau
has proposed a multimillion-dollar increase in state support for city tourism
- Thousands of lower Manhattan residents are still without telephone service
Utility executives reported that most phone lines are working again, but many
still do not have service. The total cost to rebuild destroyed telephone and
electricity lines and transportation infrastructure is expected to be billions of
- Some insurance companies appear to be "redlining" lower Manhattan
A state insurance official reported that some insurance companies had tried to
stop writing policies in Manhattan south of 14th Street. Business owners reported
that insurance premiums were being increased by 150 percent or more.
ASSEMBLY HEARINGS ON KEY ISSUES RELATED TO
Note: All hearings were co-chaired by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
Air quality and other environmental and public health issues in lower Manhattan
RESURGENCE OF LOWER MANHATTAN FOLLOWING 9/11 ATTACK
Monday, November 26
Overall impact on New York City's economy, and strategies for economic resurgence
- Environmental Conservation; Richard Brodsky (D-Greenburgh), chair
- Health; Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair
- Labor; Catherine Nolan (D-Queens), chair
Thursday, December 6
Tourism in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11
- Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce & Industry;
Robin Schimminger (D-Kenmore), chair
- Small Business; Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), chair
- Labor; Catherine Nolan (D-Queens), chair
Friday, December 7
Rebuilding transportation and utilities infrastructure in lower Manhattan
- Tourism, Arts & Sports Development; Joseph Morelle (D-Irondequoit), chair
Monday, December 10
Insurance industry response to WTC victims and claims
- Corporations, Authorities and Committees; Albert Vann (D-Brooklyn), chair
- Energy Committee Paul Tonko; (D-Amsterdam), chair
- Transportation Committee; David Gantt (D-Rochester), chair
- Commission on Critical Transportation Choices; Ruben Diaz, Jr. (D-Bronx), chair
Wednesday, December 12
- Insurance; Alexander B. Grannis (D-Manhattan), chair