A day after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the progress the World Trade Center site – and all of Lower Manhattan – has made in 12 years, but warned of future terror threats.
Bloomberg said that when he took office in January 2002, the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoldering, and there was real worry that the city would not be able to recover from the crippling economic and emotional blows delivered by the disaster.
“But today we can declare that the era of post-9/11 uncertainty is over,” Bloomberg said in a speech to the Downtown Alliance, which manages the area’s Business Improvement District.
He boasted that the population of downtown has tripled since 2001, and the area is now home to hotels, schools and parks.
The speech was meant to burnish Bloomberg’s legacy as the mayor’s term in office expires at year’s end. He has become the unofficial caretaker of Sept. 11’s aftermath, overseeing every memorial service and serving as chairman of the museum. He lent the institution $15 million earlier this year to cover operating expenses.
Bloomberg spoke at the gleaming 7 World Trade Center skyscraper, and the view out the 10th floor window emphasized his point far greater than his words.
The twin reflecting pools of the 9/11 memorial – which have drawn more than 10 million visitors in the two years since it opened – shimmered in the sunlight. A museum dedicated to the tragedy is set to open next year.
Construction is also visible at a new transit hub and several skyscrapers, most notably One World Trade Center, which will open by the end of 2014. It stands at 1,776 feet, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
Bloomberg defended the sometimes-slow progress of the rebuilding, noting that much-loved Central Park took three decades to finish and went way over budget.
“Not one person talks about these obstacles today, because none of it matters now,” he said.
But he cautioned that the city could not afford to grow complacent in protecting itself.
“The threat we continue to face is not abstract, and it is not going away,” he said. “The day that we believe our progress is inevitable, the day that we take our security for granted, the day we believe the past cannot repeat itself, is the day those questions will return.”