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Trump pushes own Ground Zero plan

Site planners reject mogul's criticism of World Trade Center site

From Phil Hirschkorn

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Donald Trump says he has a better plan.
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Daniel Libeskind
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Officials in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center site Wednesday were quick to dismiss real estate developer Donald Trump's proposal to scrap their plan and instead build "reincarnated" Twin Towers similar to the originals.

"Donald Trump is entitled to his opinion, just like the millions of people who actually involved themselves in the public planning process which resulted in the master plan," said a spokesperson for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency overseeing rebuilding on the 16-acre site hit by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

That master plan, designed by Daniel Libeskind and David Childs, features a 1,776-foot "Freedom Tower" and a 4.5-acre area for a memorial to 9/11 victims.

But Trump told reporters at a news conference: "Throw it all away."

The agency spokesperson said, "It would be a mistake to ignore the democratic process that resulted in a consensus about planning for the site. We will continue to move forward with the master site plan."

Already, the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower has been laid on the site, though earlier this month New York Gov. George Pataki announced that the iconic tower would be tweaked to accommodate security concerns raised by the New York Police Department. A revised tower design is to be unveiled next month.

The Freedom Tower design was chosen in February 2003 after some of the world's best-known architects submitted proposals. Its height is symbolic of the year of American independence, and its 276-foot spire is meant to echo the arm of the Statue of Liberty.

The torqued glass-and-steel design includes a steel cable netting, more than 60 floors for offices, an indoor observation deck, a restaurant and wind-harvesting turbines to supply some of the building's power.

Trump made it clear he doesn't like it.

"It's a building that's essentially a skeleton," he said.

Trump said the plan "looks like a junkyard."

"You take a look at a the roofs of those buildings, they're all at different angles, different shapes," he said. "It is the worst pile of crap architecture I have ever seen in my life."

Trump's alternative would be replicas of the original 110-story towers, only a bit taller. The design and model by architect Ken Gardner, embraced by Trump, offered buildings that would be 1,474 feet -- more than a hundred feet taller than the original towers, once the world's tallest buildings.

"What we need is support to build a bigger and better version of two buildings and more that were taken down by people that were animals," Trump said. "If something happened to the Statue of Liberty, you wouldn't rebuild it as something other than the Statue of Liberty."

Trump's plan would also mean scrapping the memorial plaza that was also chosen after an international design competition.

In a written statement sent to CNN, Libeskind said, "The site plan is not just about commercial buildings. The memorial is its crucial centerpiece. It is there for a reason. The museums are there for a reason. The performing art center is there for a reason. The public open space is there for a reason. The transportation hub is there for a reason.

"Together they reflect the rich tapestry of our national spirit. They respond to the loss of 3,000 lives on this sacred ground but also reaffirm with optimism and determination of our democratic values and the true American dream.

"The master plan provides a context for these elements to coexist as a forceful, coherent and enduring whole -- both respectful of history and also defiantly alive."

Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, was killed on 9/11 while working on the 97th floor of the center's North Tower, attended the news conference to inspect the model.

"This thing scared me at first. It scared me because you are confronting almost like a ghost," said Wolf, who has been active in the rebuilding debate. "Some people will not like this because it brings up too much pain. And some people will like it because it flushes pain."

Trump said he hoped that World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, who is slated to construct the Freedom Tower, would get behind his plan.

But Silverstein indicated otherwise, saying his "only concern right now is designing a safe and spectacular Freedom Tower in keeping with the well-established master plan for the site."

Silverstein already has $4 billion in insurance proceeds and the backing of the state's political establishment, led by Pataki.

"I only have the power of persuasion," Trump said.

Trump is responsible for a number of tall apartment and office buildings around Manhattan -- all with his name emblazoned on them. They include his headquarters, 5th Avenue's Trump Tower, and the tallest residential building in North America, Trump World Tower, which rises 861 feet across the street from the United Nations.

"I think the challenge of Ground Zero goes beyond anyone's individual ego, and the problem of Donald Trump is he's never gone beyond his own individual ego," said Paul Goldberger, dean of Parsons School of Design and the architecture critic for The New Yorker.

"Everything he's produced is ultimately about Donald Trump, and we need a solution at Ground Zero that's going to be about New York, about America and about healing of the city -- and Trump I don't think is suited to that," Goldberger said.

Goldberger, who chronicled the rebuilding debate of the past three years in his book "Up From Zero," said Trump's proposal was technically achievable but ill-advised.

"It's possible to rebuild some version of the original Twin Towers. But why would anyone want to? They were not particularly beloved buildings. They were powerful symbols," Goldberger said.

However, Goldberger thinks the design for the Freedom Tower also is flawed, "because two talented architects who had different visions of what the skyscraper should be were forced by the governor to collaborate."

CNN's Lauren Rivera contributed to this report.

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