• Sure, the Feds promised Bloomberg $354 million for his traffic-reduction plan (if he can get the city and state to pass it), but that dough's mainly to put up new bus depots. Of the roughly $200 mil needed to charge drivers entering Manhattan, Uncle Sam's promised only $10 million. [NYT]
So Mayor Bloomberg finally caved in the face of the collective fit thrown by some 9/11 victim relatives, who demanded the sixth-anniversary ceremonies be held in the pit at ground zero and only there. The Port Authority will now contort to allow the mourners to, as the mayor said in a statement, "descend the ramp in a single-file stream that keeps moving into a limited area … and then to ascend back to street level." We can understand why Bloomie gave up — nobody wants to be the villain, and how bad would pissing off 9/11 widows look in, say, some sort of national campaign?
City Hall and the 9/11 families are fighting over the site of the upcoming sixth-anniversary commemoration, and the negotiations have now devolved into truly embarrassing haggling. Somehow, each concession manages to sound even more pathetic than the one before. To wit: Today's Daily News reports that Mayor Bloomberg has backed away from his initial suggestion to move the ceremonies to a nearby park (it's sort of tough to do it on ground zero itself, given that the thing is a giant construction site); he's now offering a compromise location with a view of ground zero. The families say they'll take the matter to federal court on First Amendment grounds if they have to.
• The Albany County D.A., P. David Soares, announced yesterday that he will review Cuomo's findings regarding use of state police by the governor's office. Spitzer, sounding more Zen by the minute: "I welcome it, I accept it." [amNY]
• Breaking news! After a comprehensive study, the MTA can now tell you that numbered subway lines are overcrowded, and that Lex lines often run behind schedule. (Who knew?) Apparently there's nothing officials can really do about it, as those lines are already operating at capacity.
Imagine there's no Imagine Mosaic (it's easy if you try): The centerpiece of Central Park's Strawberry Fields is in danger of collapsing. The first cracks appeared in the 25-year-old memorial five or six years ago, according to M.C. Reiley, the Central Park Conservancy's supervisor of monuments conservation, and what he called the "last, best chance" to save it came last week. "The problem is that it wasn't constructed very well," said Reiley, who is also a sculptor. The mosaic is eleven feet in diameter but sits on a concrete slab only ten feet across. "So, right off the bat there's been this problem with a half foot of the mosaic all the way around not resting on anything," Reiley explained.
Of all the delays, scuffles, and tantrums besetting the ground-zero reconstruction effort, none is as fundamentally embarrassing as the general inability to settle on the order of names for the 9/11 memorial. Last we checked, the families of first responders demanded that the cops and firefighters be separated from the "regular" victims, and the original random placement gave way to a bizarre system wherein civilians would be grouped by employer, without naming the employer. Mayor Bloomberg, who chairs the WTC Memorial Foundation, has long been saying he considers the matter closed; that's why a recent Spitzer remark suggesting "future discussions" threatened to start the whole ordeal anew. But today some good news: The governor and the mayor had a nice long talk yesterday, and they got their positions in sync. Spitzer now says he subscribes to the foundation's plan. One would think that would be the last hurdle, but no. Some "family and firefighter groups" are still lobbying for the inclusion of victims' ages and ranks. Yes, let's introduce rank into this equation, shall we?
Mayor Says Spitzer Now Agrees With Him on Listing of 9/11 Names [NYT]
Earlier:9/11 Name Fight Drags On
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
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]
• A new memorial to American 587's crash, the second-deadliest air disaster in U.S. history, was dedicated Sunday in Belle Harbor. It's a curved granite wall with the victims' names and a line from a poem in Spanish (most of the 265 victims were Dominicans heading to Santo Domingo). On the crash site itself, residential construction is in full swing. [NYT]
• If you lived through the transit strike last year, you kind of hated union boss Roger Toussaint. And that was before you knew he had a secret deal with the MTA while the strike was still going on, as the Daily News reveals today. What a guy. [NYDN]
• A high-powered Manhattan lawyer was found dead near his abandoned BMW in an upstate bird sanctuary — an apparent suicide; the man was out on $225,000 bail on a rape charge he vehemently denied. [NYP]
• The flap over Charlie Rangel's already-infamous "Who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?" continues, with local newspapers there alternately asking the feisty congressman to come visit their fair state and heaving invective on New York. [Gotham Gazette]
• And what's the Post's headline of the day? There are plenty of contenders, from "Mick Jagger Rocks On in Grief" to "Bearied!" but we'll go with Egg Foo Gun, about a handgun smuggled into a hospital in a Chinese-food carton. Well done, Post. [NYP]