• That was fast: Spitzer has earned the epithet "tyrannical" for the first — and probably not the last — time in his gubernatorial tenure. Apparently, the Spitz now tours fellow Democrats' districts to individually rip the legislators for reneging on the comptroller deal. [NYDN]
• Late policeman Cesar Borja became the human face of the post-9/11 illnesses befalling first responders. The Times bursts that heroic bubble today by reporting that Borja wasn't even a second responder; he never rushed to the site on 9/11 and simply picked up a few shifts there, in December 2001, for overtime pay. [NYT]
• The president, meantime, can't keep his mitts off another hero — Wesley Autrey, our bunny-hat-sporting subway savior; weeks after his cameo at the State of the Union, he is back at the White House for some sort of George Bush Cares About Black People shindig. (Among other invitees: Charlie Rangel.) [NYP]
• Chuck Schumer, Christine Quinn, and Hillary Clinton pile on Clipper Equity, threatening to block its Starrett City purchase unless they see an ironclad pledge to keep the complex's 6,000 units affordable. Turns out Clipper "doesn't have a written plan" for its $1.3 billion impulse buy. [amNY]
• And get ready for actual snow, if you remember what the stuff is; a few inches of it are expected this afternoon. But don't get too excited: This bit of real winter will quickly be replaced by that post-millennial stand-in — freezing rain — by tomorrow morning. [4 Weather Plus]
Believe it or not, you'll actually be able to visit a 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan this summer. But, naturally, it's not ours, of course (don't be silly). The British Memorial Garden at Hanover Square is nearly finished; it's just awaiting a planting ceremony — complete with 65 singing Welsh children — scheduled for March 1 (a mere 22 months after construction began). Tonight, the "Anglo-American community" will gather at Cipriani 42nd Street to toast the near-completion. So how'd it get done so quickly? Garden president Camilla Hellman diplomatically praises the U.S. Embassy in London and the city's Parks Department, which helped find the sloping site. We credit stiff upper lips. "We never tried to list all the victims' names," says Hellman. Instead, a fence line and finials represent the 67 British 9/11 victims, stone from the Isles reflects heritage, and the garden explores the entirety of Atlantic-alliance history. “I thought about families going to ground zero as a harrowing experience, and wanted them to come to Hanover Square and understand New York a bit better," says Hellman. One way to understand New York: Visitors to the Garden will be able to look uphill at that recently opened beacon of freedom towering over it, William Beaver House. —Alec Appelbaum
• Ladies and gentlemen, your new catchphrase for the day: "I am a fucking steamroller." If we are to believe the Post exclusive, this gem was uttered by none other than Governor Spitzer — in response to a GOP assemblyman who complained about being shut out of the legislative process. [NYP]
• Albany Democrats, who apparently didn't get the above memo, are, in the delicate Times phrasing, "leaning toward reneging" on their deal with Spitzer that lets him hand-pick the Hevesi replacement. [NYT]
• The White House has approved $25 million in aid to combat lung diseases and others in 9/11 first responders. And to think all it took was five and a half years, and the Dems pretty much parading a dead cop around the State of the Union address. [NYDN]
• Guess who's about to sign a lease for $50,000 square feet at Lincoln Center vacated by the dear old Tower Records? T. J. Maxx, that's who. And so, suburbia encroaches one step closer. [Crain's]
• And the Landmarks Preservation Commission has bestowed its blessing on three heretofore unprotected sites, thus saving them from, you guessed it, a fucking steamroller: two Harlem churches — one built by the architect of St. Patrick's — and the awesomely named Horn & Hardart Automat-Cafeteria Building. (Now, sadly, a drugstore). [amNY]
• The Post has "Mob scion" Chris Colombo on tape waxing nostalgic about the days of former New York A.G. Dennis Vacco: "Spitzer is the worst. Vacco was the best. He didn't care about anything. I had a hook in him." Oh, the election ad that would have made. [NYP]
• So there's JFK, La Guardia, Newark and … Stewart? With the Spitz's blessing, the Port Authority is about to buy an underused airport 60 miles north of the city and turn it into the region's fourth international hub. Pataki, apparently, hated the idea. [NYT]
• We suppose it was inevitable: The issue of how to list the names of WTC victims on the 9/11 memorial — alphabetically, at random, in weird associative clusters — is now fodder for hysterical TV ads running on NY1. [amNY]
• So there's this $140 million police-radio system the MTA had been installing in the subways for ten years. It's done, but the cops won't use it: Everything sounds "as if you're talking through a glass of water." A $140 million glass of water. [NYT]
• And the Daily News somehow "learned," unprompted by any recent developments, that Thor Equities is planning to redevelop Coney Island as a "glitzy playground" — a plan in the works for years. Let's not tell the paper about the whole WTC memorial thing; it might upset them. [NYDN]
• The health of 9/11 first responders finally becomes a major political issue; President Bush will address it in tonight's State of the Union address, and now-official White House contender Hillary Clinton used ground zero to announce her $1.9 billion long-term treatment initiative. [amNY]
• The Sean Bell case began in earnest yesterday, with the 23-member grand jury beginning to parse the evidence in the infamous 50-shot police slaying of an unarmed man. The presentation will take close to a month; detractors say the D.A. is using the occasion for a "minitrial." [NYP]
• A side effect of being rich and famous is that people think they don't need to make good on their debts to you. For instance, New Delhi owes New York City $16.4 million (in real-estate taxes for the properties India owns here). Our courts are tempted to tweak the laws so the city can sue. [DNA World]
• "Come on, guys, we can get more mileage out of this antique-dealer-suing-bum story. Angles, think angles." "How about the bum's son comes to town to reconcile with him?" "Perfect." [NYDN]
• And a mass evacuation of New York City will commence today via the Brooklyn Bridge, under the cover of Coast Guard cutters and military helicopters. Luckily, it's all so that Will Smith can save the earth or become a stockbroker or something. [7Online]
In 2003, George Pataki expected the superstructure of Freedom Tower to have reached its full 1,776 feet by this September. In 2004, he presided over the cornerstore-laying for the building. And yesterday, finally, the first steel beams were installed there. (How is this different than that otherfirst-things-being-installed ceremony a few weeks ago? We seem to recall that one involved concrete rather than steel.) Two beams were the result of yesterday's work — there'll be 27 in total — and they top out some 40 feet below street level. So thanks, Pataki, for that awesome leadership. You've shown the terrorists!
Pataki Finds Satisfaction in New Roots at 9/11 Site [NYT]
Because nothing that concerns ground-zero development is easy, and because nothing about 9/11 commemoration is easy, and because any perception that some victims are being memorialized more than others is taken as a slight by civilian victims' families, and because any perception that cops and firefighters aren't being more thoroughly memorialized is take as a slight by their families, well, that's why 2006 is winding down with people still arguing over a nonexistent memorial. In the latest bit of incremental progress, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation thought up a new arrangement of victims' names on the memorial. (The original plan was random placement.) Firefighters and cops will now not be ranked but grouped by command, precinct, or company. Civilians workers killed in the attacks will be listed by employer, but the employer will not be named. Spouses and siblings will be put together. The plan also, somehow, accommodates the names of the Pentagon and United 93 victims as well as the six people who died in the 1993 bombing. Firefighters' reps are okay with the new order, but the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund isn't. (And that's before we hear from everyone else.) Mayor Bloomberg, who is clearly beginning to lose patience, responded: "There is no 'right' answer. Nevertheless, it is time to move forward." You think?
Plan Is Changed for Arranging Names on Trade Center Memorial [NYT]
New York Film Critics Circle has picked Paul Greengrass's United 93 as the best picture of the year. ("Should Hollywood be in the 9/11 business?" wondered New York's David Edelstein, one of the Circle's 27 members, when the film came out. "Only if it can make movies like United 93." He went on to call it "brilliant, tightly focused, and momentous.") But here's the question: Does the picture — a stark, minimalist retelling of the passenger revolt that brought down the flight — stand a chance at the big awards show on the other coast? For now, we can only go on the Circle's track record.
So the one bright spot at the construction morass that is ground zero has long been Santiago Calatrava's transportation hub, with a daring design beloved by all and, because it is being constructed by the Port Authority and not by Larry Silverstein, a seemingly strong likelihood of getting built sooner rather than later. Too good to be true, you say? Too good to be true it is! Someone has finally noticed that the roof of Calatrava's underground mezzanine, which is set to be built of translucent panels that bathe the mezzanine with natural light, is in the same place as the ground-level pedestrian entrance to the victims' memorial, which is set to be flanked by cathedral-like allée of white oaks. The obvious problem: You can't exactly plant trees in a field of glass panels. "We are working through these issues and are very close to a resolution," the Port Authority's chief flack tells the Times. Yuh-huh.
The Intersection of Two Designs and Two Purposes [NYT]
Before September 11, Peter Lance was an ABC journalist turned fiction writer. Since then, he's been obsessively ferreting out evidence that New York's FBI office and the much-vaunted Joint Terrorism Task Force suppressed evidence that could have prevented 9/11 fifteen years ago — culminating in his new book, Triple Cross. Just don't call it a conspiracy. He talked to New York.
You call 9/11 a "cold case." Why? Bin Laden did it! Bin Laden himself has never been indicted for 9/11. Moussaoui was a peripheral player. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is untriable. In bringing someone to justice for mass murder, the trial would expose the failures of the U.S. intelligence agencies in a way that the 9/11 Commission failed to do.
Presented without further comment from this week's Entertainment Weekly, about the forthcoming Die Hard 4:
When Bruce Willis and his longtime producing partner, Arnold Rifkin, were marooned in Manhattan on September 11, the two took a somber walk down a muted Park Avenue. Along the way, a young fan spotted Willis and shouted, "Where is John McClane when you need him?!" "What I realized," says Rifkin, "is people wanted to see John McClane again."
• The State Ethics Commission is taking Alan Hevesi behind the shed with a harshly worded, 26-page report on all that Albany wife-chaffeurin'. It says Hevesi "knowingly and intentionally" broke the law and tried to cover it up. Good enough for GovernorAttorney General Eliot Spitzer, who's starting his own investigation of his ticket-mate. [NYP]
• Get ready to learn as much about sarcoidosis and granulomas as you once did about hanging chads. That's because government agencies still can't settle on an official relationship between toxic 9/11 dust and lung disease, and things are about to get very ugly and very arcane. [NYT]
• Move along, folks, nothing to see here: The Port Authority bus terminal is back to normal after a brief shutdown yesterday. A man boarded a Greyhound with one of those enduring fashion staples, a Suspicious Bag; he then refused to get off, forcing cops and bomb squads to flood the area all the way to Madam Tussauds. [WNBC]
• As a perp, Raffin Vellon doesn't seem to lack for motive: According to the police, he bludgeoned his ex and her son to death, then murdered a super's assistant, who happened to be Dominican, out of "ethnic hatred." amNew York goes strikingly Post-ish in its coverage, coining the phrase "Bronx Barbell Murders." [amNY]
• And transgendered New Yorkers can now use any restroom they want, says the MTA after settling a lawsuit with a snubbed Chelsea woman. Only in New York, kids. [Newsday]
Pennsylvania developer Larry Simon, already viewed on his side of the Delaware Water Gap as the guy who enticed too many New Yorkers to buy vacation places in the Poconos, now has an even bigger New York–dependent plan. He airlifted twenty prominent Wall Streeters to Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania, yesterday to show them his proposed site for the so-called Penn Regional Business Center — what he envisions as a backup facility for the New York's financial firms in case of a major terrorist attack on Manhattan. So how'd he make his pitch?
The bad news at ground zero today: The site has temporarily lost its only existing memorial, an eighteen-foot-tall cross made out of WTC beams. The good news: Officials are moving it because it's in the way of construction. Repeat: They're moving it for construction.
The cross, which was found fully formed by first responders on September 13, 2001, is a familiar sight. Though multiple parties have argued every detail — from acreage to font size — of the World Trade memorial-to-be, the cross has been quietly serving as the focal point of ground zero. It will now be stowed at St. Peter's Church, three blocks away, rather than in a JFK hangar, as the always-sensible Port Authority first proposed.
The move was executed with all the expected pomp ("God Bless America" performed? Check), but it raises a question: Exactly what construction was the cross getting in the way of? The Times avoids the subject entirely. We'd hazard a guess, considering the cross's former placement, that it has something to do with the new PATH station. Perhaps they should have moved it a couple of hundred feet west, to the Freedom Tower site. It wouldn't be in anyone's way there for quite a while.
Brief Journey for an Icon of the Attack on New York [NYT]