A Deepening Gloom About Ground Zero's Future

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There has been no healing, really. Four years have passed since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and the road to recovery at ground zero looks bleaker than ever. A rebuilding effort that was originally cast as a symbolic rising from the ashes has long since turned into a hallucinogenic nightmare: a roller coaster ride of grief, naïveté, recriminations, political jockeying and paranoia.

The Freedom Tower, promoted as an image of the city's resurrection, has been transformed into a stern fortress - a symbol of a city still in the grip of fear. The World Trade Center memorial has been enveloped by a clutter of memorabilia.

And the promise that culture would play a life-affirming role has proved false now that Gov. George E. Pataki has warned that freedom of expression at ground zero will be strictly controlled. ("We will not tolerate anything on that site that denigrates America, denigrates New York or freedom, or denigrates the sacrifice and courage that the heroes showed on Sept. 11," he has said.) The Freedom Center, the Drawing Center, the performing arts center that would house the tiny Signature Theater Company and Joyce Theater - all now risk being dumped, either because they are viewed as lacking in sufficient patriotism or because officials were only toying with them in the first place.

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