For architecture professor Alexander Garvin, working with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is a chance to restore the heart of the “world’s second home” and prove the resilience of American life.
In a lecture Friday at the Yale University Art Gallery, Garvin articulated his vision for a revitalized downtown Manhattan and discussed his work with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, or LMDC. The Elihu Club, a Yale senior society celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2003, sponsored the event, “Ground Zero: The Rebuilding of an American City,” as the first lecture in an annual series that brings distinguished speakers to campus.
A native New Yorker, Garvin commutes to New Haven every week to teach Yale students. Howard Lamar, former Yale president and history professor emeritus, noted the popularity of Garvin’s undergraduate course “Introduction to the Study of the City” in his introduction.
“He had so many sheep, one could only count the herdsmen,” said Lamar, referring to the large number of students and teaching assistants involved in the course.
Garvin, the LMDC’s vice president of planning, design and development, said many different players — including government agencies, banks and the media — have come together in the effort to rehabilitate ground zero.
“We have a lot to do,” Garvin said. “This has been a remarkably fast recovery, under-budget, and demonstrates how various departments are working together.”
Garvin said the public must play an important role in the redevelopment of lower Manhattan. Six companies have proposed six different “concept plans,” which were released to gauge public opinion. According to the LMDC’s Web site, the final plan will likely be a combination of the six plans.
Garvin proposed ideas to link the three major airports around New York City and to create a comprehensive transport system. He said most people wanted the New York skyline back, as well as an appropriate memorial at the site.
When answering questions, Garvin said likened the New York rebuilding effort to the movie “Casablanca.”
“We have to follow the example set by ‘Casablanca’,” Garvin said. “Everyone went to the Ritz. We have to create a lower Manhattan where everybody will want to go.”
Among the audience members was renowned architect and former Yale School of Architecture Dean Cesar Pelli.
“I am very impressed by Alexander Garvin,” Pelli said. “He has a very rare combination of a fresh mind and great optimism. At the same time, he is pragmatic and he understands how politics and business works. He understands what the city needs in terms of function and design. There is no one like him in New York.”
Other audience members said they thought Garvin’s proposals were interesting.
“I remember Alex as a graduate,” Elihu Club member Vera Wells ’71 said. “I live in New York and it is exciting to understand what is happening. I have not been able to visit ground zero yet. However, hearing Alex’s take was very informative and exciting.”
Three other Yalies — Andrew Winters ARC ’94, Chris Glaisek ARC ’96, and Hugh Eastwood ’00 — work with Garvin at the LMDC. Winters said he has enjoyed working with Garvin on such an important project.
“I was a student and a TA in Garvin’s classes,” said Winters, director of design and development at the LMDC. “This is not the first project on which we are working together. We have also been working on the Olympic bid for the past three years. I am thrilled to be working under Garvin.”