WTC Viewing Platform Gets Mixed Reviews
By Amy Zimmer
As Lindsay and Christina sit behind the reception desk at the New York Sports Club on Broadwaytwo blocks up from the WTC viewing platformthey chat about boys, gossip about co-workers, discuss musicanything to avoid staring at the endless stream of people outside waiting for a glimpse of the site. When the people on line enter the antiseptic reception area asking to use the bathroom, Lindsay and Christinayouthful, fresh-scrubbed faces in cheery blue NYSC rugby shirtssmile and turn them away.
"People come in here and say, 'I came all the way from Alabama. Can I go upstairs to look out the window?'" Christina says in a mocking Southern accent. "We don't care!" Even Christina has never gone upstairs to look at the site. Neither has Lindsay.
"If I didn't work here, I wouldn't be over here," Lindsay says. The memory of what happened and the throngs of tourists"It makes me sick. I don't even take a lunch break anymore," Lindsay explains. "We have to fight to get in and out. Seriously, by the time I get out to get food, half my break's already over. So I just stay here and work out."
Christina braves the crowd to get lunch, but she says, "You gotta bum rush people just to get through. They get mad at you just because you gotta go to work. Yo, I just wanna kick them into the streets." (When the gym recently underwent renovations, snaphappy sightseers surrounded the NYSC dumpster thinking the refuse was from the site.)
Tourists have always intermingled with the suits, deliverymen or other fast-walking New Yorkers dotting the cavernous, chaotic pre-grid streets of Lower Manhattan. You could always hear twangy dialects or foreign tongues here and there, you could always see someone holding a zoom lens or a handycam, or someone wearing a pastel jacket or spotless, white walking sneakers. But since the WTC viewing platform opened on December 29, 2001, tourists have completely taken over this small portion of the Broadway.
"You see them walking down the street in their 'I love NY' shirts. They never been to NY in their life," Christina says.
They stop in the middle of the sidewalk adding another hurdle to the kaleidoscopic obstacle course this part of Broadway has become. The discreetly displayed white sign with tiny typeface giving directions to the ticket booth at the South Street Seaport doesn't ease the traffic or confusion, and ticket holders often take up the entire width of the sidewalk. (The city erected a wooden barricade along the street's perimeter to contain the crowd forcing pedestrians on-the-go into the street). NYPD officers and ARMY soldiers patrol the promenade keeping things orderly.
Though tickets, issued for specific half-hour slots, clearly state to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before scheduled entry, people clog the sidewalks far in advance. The crowd thins at dusk, when the buzzing generators power the floodlights are turned on, illuminating the hodgepodge of mini-memorialsphotos, drawings, poems, shirts, hats, flowersblanketing the fence of St. Paul's Church.
A big cardboard sign reads, "Paradise, California Loves New York" with signatures of some Californians in Paradise. A baby "I Love NY" T-shirt from "Your friends in North Carolina" hangs on a spire. People from all over the world are making the pilgrimage to this site to show solidarity, to send their prayers.
But when Leslie waits for the bus to the Staten Island ferry everyday after leaving her New York City Department of Health office a block from St. Paul's on Broadway, she averts her eyes from the crowd waiting to ascend the platform. "To know that your lobby was used as a morgue," Leslie shutters. "Anybody coming into this area has no idea what really went on and how difficult it is for the people who work here." She has never gone to look at the sight, and most likely never will. "If you have time to stand around all day and wait on line and look at this, then you either have a lot of money, are retired, or a student. Not everybody has time to mourn. People have to get back to their lives."
Eileen, a Lower Manhattan resident for over thirty years, says, " I'm a pioneer here, but no one invited me to see the site in a jeep" (as city officials did for glitterati like Harrison Ford, Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon, according to Eileen). "If you're a tourist you can look and go away like when you go to the Statue of Liberty." But night after night, the floodlights stream into her windows, she hears the trucks transporting the debris to the pier before it's shipped off to Fresh Kills, parking is a nightmare.
Many New Yorkers don't feel ready to unveil the site to the world just yet. There are still bodies being pulled out everyone tells me. "It's disrespectful," Lindsay says. "It's disgraceful," Eileen says. "This area has been so diminished," Leslie says. What they're looking forward to: the re-opening of Century 21.