Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, a gaping hole has remained in downtown Manhattan. Now Yale architecture professor Alexander Garvin may be the one to help fill it.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a firm assembled by New York Gov. George Pataki to coordinate the redevelopment of downtown Manhattan, on Feb. 9 appointed Garvin vice president for planning, design and development.
Garvin will work closely with two former students — Andrew Winters ARC ’94 and Chris Glaisek ARC ’96 — to draft a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the area.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity,” Garvin said. “The chance to redevelop Lower Manhattan and deal with the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11 is an opportunity that’s impossible to refuse.”
But Garvin added that there remain logistical hurdles, such as the necessity of listening to the numerous opinions of residents and businesses.
“It’s going to be a great deal of work,” Garvin said. “It involves absolutely everybody in the City of New York, and it’s going to be a challenge to put all the pieces together to produce something that we can all be proud of.”
School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern said in a written statement that he is confident in Garvin’s abilities to lead such an extraordinary initiative.
“I have known Alex since he was a graduate student at Yale and there is no one better qualified for this enormous task,” Stern said. “He knows New York intimately, he understands the big picture and he will work tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to get the job done.”
As a result of this appointment, Garvin said he will have to sacrifice a number of professional endeavors, such as his private consulting practice, his writing and his worldwide speaking engagements.
But one activity he will not give up is teaching.
“I never allow my professional work to mingle with my teaching because I think there’s a conflict of interest there,” Garvin said. “I have never favored anything in my professional life over my teaching, and this is no different.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said he was pleased that Garvin decided to continue teaching at Yale.
Garvin currently commutes from his New York City home every week to teach “Study of the City” to Yale undergraduates. Garvin said he will continue teaching the course for as long as Brodhead and Stern would like him to. Garvin also teaches graduate courses.
Winters said he is not surprised by Garvin’s decision to teach during this project.
“He loves teaching,” Winters said. “He wouldn’t be who he is if he didn’t teach.”
Both Garvin and Winters said there are no concrete redevelopment plans yet since they have to gauge the opinions of the affected residents, businesses and property owners first.
“I do have some ideas, but it’s premature to say what form they’ll take,” Garvin said. “But that simple idea of making Lower Manhattan a place where everybody wants to come is very important.”
Garvin emphasized that there cannot be an “endless planning process” because the planning committee’s goal is to bring Lower Manhattan back to normal as quickly as possible.
In addition to this project, Garvin, Winters and Glaisek also have been working on New York City’s bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. But because they completed a majority of the bid work a year ago, Garvin said that project will be on the “back burner” for now.