26 November 2001



Then And Now

Should a scale model of the city portray the current skyline or the one remembered so fondly?

By Sorah Shapiro
Sorah Shapiro is a freelance writer.

November 25, 2001

'THE Twin Towers should be removed!" clamored Milton Einbinder, a retired civil engineer and community advocate, pointing one recent afternoon to the small, gray wooden replicas standing side by side in the Queens Museum of Art.

"I think they should stay in," rebutted Beau Robinson, 26, of Ridgewood, a flooring associate at Home Depot. "It's a reminder of what happened!"

"Children who never saw the towers can come here and see what they looked like," agreed Suzanne Hellmann, 21, of Elmhurst, a student at St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn.

The controversy strikes at the heart of whether the Queens Museum of Art should pluck the two towers from its "Panorama," a jumbo scale model of New York City reminiscent of a giant jigsaw puzzle. The small skyscrapers are situated among more than 895,000 miniature structures on 9,335 square feet of museum space in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, representing the 320 square miles of the five boroughs as of 1992, including office buildings, waterways, bridges, roads, churches and private homes. With dimming and darkening overhead lights conveying a dawn-to-dusk cycle, the buildings bespeak New York as the Eiffel Tower does Paris.

Conceived by city Parks Commissioner and city planner Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair, the Panorama has been renovated innumerable times - the last between 1992 and 1994 - at a cost of more than $1 million and consisting of more than 60,000 corrections. But in the past seven years, it has not been upgraded to reflect demolished buildings or new construction. Having embellished the towers with a red-white-and-blue looped ribbon symbolizing unbroken spirit and bravery, as well as a spotlight serving as a beacon of peace, and having erected two 5-foot-tall black glass memorial silhouettes about 15 feet away on the walkway-overlook, the museum re- mains reluctant to remove the two icons or to make overall revisions.

"Removing the towers is not an option," said museum spokesman Steven Malmberg. "The museum has decided to acknowledge these buildings by leaving them in place."

As to rectifying other discrepancies, he said: "It is much too expensive and time-consuming to locate a company, disassemble the entire model, ship it upstate and have replacements made for every change."

But non-sentimentalists, naysayers and armchair curators wag their fingers, claiming the museum's inertia defeats the purpose for which the Panorama was created: to reflect the city's current state.

"If the Panorama is supposed to be accurate, how come it's so inaccurate?" asked Dwight Glanville, 28, of South Ozone Park, an English teacher at Bronx Outreach High School, after failing to locate Ground Zero.

"Why don't they just put the towers somewhere else and put Ground Zero here?" added Camacho James, 26, of Brooklyn, a history teacher at the same school.

Milton Einbinder professed to know why. "Museum officials are engaging in wishful thinking, indulging themselves into pretending that Sept. 11 never happened. They should face up to the truth that the towers no longer exist and should remove them.

"The Panorama is supposed to be a living, breathing reality. Instead, it's a fairy tale. What's the whole point of the model if it doesn't keep up with the times? Buildings go up, buildings come down. The Panorama needs to show what the city looks like now, not years ago," said the 75-year-old Bayside resident.

Astoria resident Jeffrey Kroessler, a member of the history department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, said the Panorama should be renovated "at least once every five years." When the grieving is over, "they should replace the towers with whatever is put up in their place. This would be the normal process."

But the museum maintains that the model is a "historic object" and, as such, should be left intact.

"While these magnificent structures leave a painful void in the Manhattan skyline and in the hearts of millions, they still stand proudly at the Queens Museum of Art, frozen in time in 1992," Malmberg said.

But Einbinder held his ground. "If I were in charge of the museum, I would update the Panorama at least once a month. It's not necessary to incur the expense of disassembling it and sending it upstate. The alterations are very easy and cheap and can be made in-house."

Making a note of the civil engineer's comments and phone number, Malmberg promised to take the matter up with museum administrators at a forthcoming meeting.

Other Changes Left Undone

Other evolutions in the city's landscape that the Panorama fails to reflect:

The new Flushing library

The City Lights apartment complex in Long Island City

The criminal and civil court buildings in Jamaica

Queens West apartment houses

Additions to Metrotech in downtown Brooklyn

The Long Island Rail Road yards in Brooklyn

Much of the Times Square redevelopment, including the Conde Nast and Reuters buildings

The Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City

The new terminals at Kennedy International Airport

The Chinese Scholars Garden in Staten Island

New housing on the South Shore of Staten Island

The demolition of the New York City Coliseum in Manhattan

Twin Towers: 'Man's Belief in Humanity'

For more than 30 years, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center proudly stood at the base of Manhattan as a symbol of the United States' strength and ingenuity. Tourists and residents marveled at the glorious structures as they soared 110 stories above the city proclaimed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to be the "capital of the world."

Home to numerous businesses employing approximately 40,000 people from around the United States and the world, the site also welcomed nearly 10,000 tourists a day. As the centerpiece of a revitalized downtown financial district and a popular tourist destination, the World Trade Center hosted many concerts and outdoor events on its plaza. It also housed the World Views artist residency program, sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Both the observation deck and the Windows of the World restaurant were popular attractions providing unsurpassed views of the metropolitan region. Minoru Yamasaki, chief architect of the World Trade Center, stated: "The World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his belief in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation his ability to find greatness."

Panorama Facts

Dates of Construction: July 1961-April 1964

Original Cost (in 1964 dollars): $672,662

Estimated Cost Today: $3 million

Scale: 1 inch equals 100 feet

Estimated Weight: 45,000 pounds

Materials Used: wood, plastic, copper,

Formica flakeboard

Lighting: 2,500 bulbs in blue, green, white, yellow and red on police station houses, traffic bureaus, courts, jails and firehouses

Copyright � 2001, Newsday, Inc.