When the City Becomes the Carceral

In today’s New York Times, there was a depressing story about the ongoing, and strategic, public incarceration of the new “World Trade Center” area before it is even officially open to the public.  Where once the citizenry roamed with wild and interested abandon in the area, the Police State have now taken over with barricades and station houses and checkpoints.

The Police Department has proposed encircling the site with a fortified palisade of guard booths, vehicle barricades and sidewalk barriers. And neighbors and planners worry that the trade center will once again feel cut off from its surroundings, a place where security credentials prevail, traffic is unwelcome and every step is scrutinized, as at the New York Stock Exchange or 1 Police Plaza security zones.

The police plan calls for nine guard booths, each about 6 by 12 feet in area and 11 feet tall. Eight street intersections would be restricted by a double barricade system known as a sally port, from 30 to 160 feet long. The trade center site would also be bounded by bollards, the barrier posts that have cropped up around many important structures since 2001.

What mystifies me is how these threats to One World Trade and One Police Plaza and the Stock Exchange so heavily rely on a threat coming from a wheeled vehicle.

It’s as if the security experts have forgotten the threats from airplanes in the sky crashing into towers and pressure cooker bombs in book bags during marathons.  Do they not think some sort of improvised drone will soon be an easy method of attack piloted from a nearby office building?

These barricades are all part of the security drama scenery that has now besotted USA security thinking against terrorism.  If we show our big guns, and if we have lots of checkpoints, and if we make it really hard for the innocent people to even get near our most precious buildings, then we’ll all feel safer until the next time we get hit — and then we’ll just put up more barricades and deeper restrictions until we force ourselves to feel safe again — until the next time we get hit…

19 comments

  • This is all about being visible – about being seen to be visible about psychologicaly making up for percieved and real failures. it is about making themseves feel potent not impotent. It is not actually about prevention in any real sense of the word.

    • I agree it’s all show — but the people who suffer are those who live in the neighborhood or those who want to work in or just visit the area. They can’t get around as easily as they could before. They are being watched and intimidated. This is freedom?

      • there is always a price to be paid for freedom ……………….especially when “freedom” is an illusion as it is in this case. You should be proud to suffer for your great nations past failure to protect you !!!

        In all seriousness I totally agree that this whole idea is an outdated form of protection – especially given the method of original attack . It is going to severely hamper the freedom of movement of thousands of people on a daily basis. I am figuring there is a cost issue here as well – but one would have thought that in this day and age there would have been far more resident friendly measures that could have been implemented.

        On another note IF something ever happens it looks as though people will be kettled in the danger zone – because all those barriers will impede the flow of people out as well as in

        • That’s an excellent point about the rescue flow being burdened by these barriers. It just goes to show they don’t think much of us that they think we need to SEE what they’re doing to “protect us” in order to feel protected. I don’t think a lot of New Yorkers feel protected by these false theatrics.

          We all know the real security is hidden from us. There’s a special NYPD helicopter that hovers above Manhattan two miles in the sky so it cannot be seen by the naked eye and it records every movement and can read a license plate on a car from its position and it stays there all day and all night. They are recording and watching and seeking anomalies to then prosecute on the ground. They’re on top of it all — way up there — and hidden… and that’s why these on-ground theatrics are so silly and unnecessary… especially when the mayor promised us parks and well-being and happiness in the former WTC killing grounds!

  • @ David …………….. I think the seeing is more about the morale of the services who failed to stop – or be aware of 9/11 – it was a huge psychological loss to them and the USA – this type of presence is like then re-staming themselves on the map saying “WE ARE HERE” . It is a WE WILL NOT BE MOVED – and of course a daily reminder to people of that fact as they try and navigate their wasy through the area.

    I have to say I am a little confused by the lack of memorial gardens, peace gardens , tranquility and harmony – all of which were promised.

    • Well, there’s a museum you can visit for $30, and you can visit two “reverse memorial fountain” “reflecting pools” where all the water drains into giant holes in the ground — but you have to have a reservation and a ticket first.

      • so you cannot go and contemplate freedom freely – it costs you and you are monitored every step of the way …………………… says a lot about “freedom”

  • do they have to pay as well .outraged look ……..

    • You only pay for the museum. The two reflecting pools are free, but you have to reserve a ticket to get in the area because it’s locked down with security guards. There are suicide concerns that someone might fling themselves into the pits and down the drain with the water. We are told there are unnamed forces in place to prevent that — whatever that means. You can see the two “reflecting pool” pits in the first image. They’re done. They’ve been open to the public — with a ticket! — for about a year.

  • You would think at least the victims families would have a special pass allowing them in at any time.

  • I visited the 9/11 memorial a couple of months ago, just the outdoor pools because I didn’t want to pay for the museum portion, and there was a lot of security even just to get there– almost like trying to get through an airport. We obviously do need to take security measures, but the extremity highlights our paranoia for sure.

    • Yeah, the design of the whole place confounds me. Two ashen black pits as massive burial sites is a proper memorial? You have to move beneath the pits to see the draining water falling on you as an “experience?” Who designed the place? They took the worst of the tragedy and memorialized the darkness and the killing forever.

      The Lincoln Memorial uplifts the spirit and inspires — if the same design team that did the WTC site did the Lincoln Memorial, they would’ve replicated the chair he was sitting in when he was shot in the back of the head and left him entirely out of it. Astonishing!

  • Lillian Boyington

    https://www.google.com/search?q=oklahoma+city+memorial&rls=com.microsoft:en-US&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=5lSeUb-DOsizrQHDzoDYBQ&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAQ&biw=1205&bih=796#imgrc=_

    One picture doesn’t do it justice, so I’ve included a ‘list’. I find the Oklahoma City memorial to be rather picturesque compared to the dark holes I just saw. I commend the designers taste to remember a very undelectable incident.

    I haven’t been ‘on scene’, nor do I know what to look for to capture the progress of the memorial construction in NYC (in a palpable way). This is interesting to see just how they are handling what should be, in reality, ‘free to all’, as you have said.

    It all seems to be a complete waste of time, money, and emotion and at the very least a knee jerk reaction to something that’s relatively out of their control. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and I don’t see any different circumstances here.

    • Thanks for the link, Lillian! I am confounded by the OKC memorial. Chairs? I don’t get it — because it’s all a little too “on the nose” for me — and I regret the lack of subtlety.

      • Lillian Boyington

        Explain “on the nose”, please. I don’t understand.
        Did you see there’s lights on the base, so they’re all lit up and visible at night as well?

        • The OKC memorial is too literal. The empty chairs. The statue holding it’s face in sorrow. It’s telling us what we already know and then telling us again over and over again with all the same design.

          The best memorials are those in which you can imprint your own understanding and feelings. Perfect examples are the JFK Eternal Flame, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and even the Vietnam Memorial. All of those examples make a bold statement about the event/loss but they don’t tell you how to feel or what to think. You make up your own mind.

          Other terrible examples of failed national memorials in the OKC niche are the FDR memorial, the Nurses memorial and the WWII memorial — all imagineless, bang-you-over-the-head obvious examples of exactly what not to do.

          National memorials need to have a certain amount of abstraction to allow personal definition across generations and future historial references to wash across them. If the memorial tells us exactly how to feel, then we make no emotional connection to what we’re supposed to remember.

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