The World Trade Center's twin towers as they appeared in the New York Times, 1971.

The World Trade Center’s twin towers as they appeared in the New York Times, 1971.

On this somber American anniversary, I’ve seen a lot of coverage of multiple aspects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

As this is Change of Venue Friday, I recall the Twin Towers, the World Trade Center in the southern end of Manhattan. But I’m most intrigued not with the structures as they were viewed on that fateful day. Instead, let’s recall how those iconic buildings were viewed for decades in New York and in the popular imagination.

New York's World Trade Center under construction.

New York’s World Trade Center under construction.

Given how massive the towers were, it’s probably no surprise that they were not uniformly loved by neighbors and others. Their “superblock” design obliterated the human sense of scale that had characterized the neighborhood. That, plus, the elimination of a historic grid streetscape and the razing of many longtime businesses in “Radio Row,” made the buildings’ construction controversial. You can read more about it here.

This was the "Radio Row" neighborhood of Manhattan in 1936. The streets didn't look much different when they were transformed decades later to make way for the World Trade Center (photo via Wikimedia by Berenice Abbott).

This was the “Radio Row” neighborhood of Manhattan in 1936. The streets didn’t look much different when they were transformed decades later to make way for the World Trade Center (photo via Wikimedia by Berenice Abbott).

From a legal standpoint, I was struck by the meager compensation business owners received when eminent domain plowed down their structures to make way for the towers:

“In compensation for Radio Row business owners’ displacement, the [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey] gave each business $3,000 each, without regard to how long the business had been there or how prosperous the business was. After the area had been purchased for the World Trade Center in March 1964, Radio Row was demolished starting in March 1965. It was completely demolished by 1966.”

As you can see in the ad below, the twin towers triggered the creative imagination. They were like columns of Manifest Destiny aimed at the sky.

Everyone involved with the twin towers—even the asbestos industry—took pride in their participation in the building’s construction.

Everyone involved with the twin towers—even the asbestos industry—took pride in their participation in the building’s construction.

I have a cousin who once worked as a waiter at Windows on the World, which was amazingly profitable: “In 2000, its last full year of operation, Windows on the World reported revenues of $37 million, making it the highest-grossing restaurant in the United States.” Fortunately, he was not working there in the early 2000s.

When it comes to iconic but sometimes oversized structures, perhaps I like them most from a distance. A number of years ago, I happened across a terrific poster in a midtown Phoenix vintage store; you can see it below. The artist’s rendition of New York included the towers, but as a backdrop to the vibrant life of the city. That’s how I like to remember the World Trade Center, as a large but ultimately appreciated part of Manhattan. The towers ultimately became a sad part of U.S. history. But they also remain a seminal part of modern urban life.

The twin towers of New York's World Trade Center ultimately became a dominant icon in a city filled with icons.

The twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center ultimately became a dominant icon in a city filled with icons.

Donna Killoughey Bird

There has been no shortage of coverage regarding the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. Some people have commented on the attacks in New York, or Washington, or the one that ended in a Pennsylvania field. Others have shared their own unique view or memory of that day.

Amid that wealth of coverage, I wanted to be sure one story did not escape your notice. An article in yesterday’s Arizona Republic told the heart-breaking story of Donna Killoughey Bird, an Arizona lawyer.

Bird has written a book about her experience, which she’s titled “Nothing Will Separate Us.” News reports indicate the book will be available online in the coming month.

Do you feel safer seeing security guards in public places? Or do you get more of a sense of safety when you see uniformed, sworn police officers?

That was one of the questions posed in a news story earlier this week (from the Washington Post and posted on the Arizona Attorney Magazine News Center). The story explains how there has been a huge proliferation in the number of security guards nationwide since 9-11. But is that a good thing?

As if on cue, an Arizona Republic story yesterday reported that it appears Phoenix will soon join other cities in replacing sworn police officers on Metro Light Rail duty. Instead, security guards will provide safety—and ticket-checking—duties.

The article also went to some lengths to explain that the change would cost no additional public money. That would be a real trick—getting something additional for nothing—so it took only a little more reading to see that it would actually cost us something:

“The switch to G4S for passenger monitoring won’t cost the city any extra money. It won’t save Phoenix any money, either, but it will improve oversight of passengers.

“[Cmdr. Jeff Alexander of the Phoenix Public Transit Police Bureau] said that with the change, the bureau would shift $770,000 to Metro light rail to pay for the private-security service. That money would otherwise have paid for filling several vacancies at the bureau: two sergeants, four police assistants and two municipal security guards.”

G4S Security guard

So public monies—and police positions—would be transferred to a private entity, albeit for a public purpose. Given the realities of City budget politics, those are dollars and police positions that we are unlikely to ever see return.

Of course, if the service the public receives from the guards is at least as good as that of the police, it may be a good deal that is being executed (assuming, of course, that a formal RFP and weighing of private options was done, and this was not a single-vendor contract with no analysis of alternatives).

But much of what police and security provide is peace of mind and a deterrent effect, so public impressions about this change in service matter a lot.

Where do you stand on the privatization of security services? Does it have its place? Is it appropriate in some scenarios but not others? Is this national shift an improvement, a detriment, or of little moment one way or the other?

Post your thoughts below, or write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.