World Trade Center

While the original World Trade Center ultimately symbolized New York as the center of an emerging globalized economy, the World Trade Center initially symbolized the last grand project by powerful urban planners that had relatively unchecked authority. In creating the World Trade Center, the combined governments of NYC, NYS, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey steamrolled through criticism and resistance by citizens that didn’t approve of the project’s ambitious and unconventional design, nor of the demolition of Radio Row, to create the superblock on which the WTC would be built. Upon completion, the towers symbolized the finale of Robert Moses-era unchecked urban planning in NYC, with the future of urban planning forever changed in a way that made it more democratic. The WTC was the end of old-school urban planning where whole neighborhoods were demolished to make room for highways, public housing projects, and other “public works.”

However, shortly after its construction, the WTC quickly began to symbolize something different: it symbolized the greatness of New York, America, capitalism, and the global economy. When foreigners thought of New York and America, the World Trade Center was on the short-list of places that came to mind, and was featured prominently in popular culture. It represented both the strength of the American economy, and the strength of New York City, as the city battled its way out of near-bankruptcy and high crime in the 1970’s and 1980’s. While disapproved of initially by a sizable portion of the public, the WTC ultimately transcended its criticism by symbolizing the greatness of NYC and America, as a whole. The WTC symbolized these qualities up until its final morning, where even in its destruction, it nonetheless continued to symbolize strength, resilience, and power.

“The Center of the World: New York, A Documentary Film.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service.

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