Listening to the City

Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York
Disaster Recovery, Planning & Growth
New York, NY
February & July 2002


Soon after the 9/11 attacks, stark differences over the future of the site began to divide survivors, business leaders and residents. Civic leaders and members of the general public feared that business and political interests would prevail unless a broad public consensus emerged and shaped the redevelopment effort. To address this need, the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York asked AmericaSpeaks to develop a project that would transcend these differences and provide decision makers with areas of agreement about the redevelopment of the site.

Listening to the City brought more than 4,300 people together on July 2, 2002. About 200 more participated in a similar meeting on July 22 and more than 800 participated in an on-line dialogue. An earlier meeting of 600 had impressed the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority so they became co-sponsors of Listening to the City.

Participants were asked to give their thoughts about six preliminary concepts for the Trade Center site, which the Port Authority of NY and NJ and the LMDC unveiled days before the meeting. Many criticized them as too dense, too dull and too commercial.  The poor reception of these concepts by the participants sent the sponsors back to the drawing board. A contest among architectural firms was initiated using the vision and principles that emerged during Listening to the City.

Listening to the City demonstrated that it is possible for thousands of citizens to come together, deliberate about difficult issues and reach consensus within a charged and complex decision-making process. The process was praised by many decision makers, the media, and architecture and planning leaders as a model for the future.


City officials listened to citizen feedback, revisiting the design process in hopes of creating a fitting memorial.