'Ich bin ein New Yorker'

Oct. 4, 2001 at 1:02 PM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The Berlin Philharmonic opened Carnegie Hall's 111th season with a concert of Beethoven and Mahler and a statement of support ot New Yorkers recovering from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center -- "Ice bin ein New Yorker."

"We have come to America at a time of great anguish and sorrow," the musicians from Germany said in a statement. "We come as a reaffirmation of our common humanity, which is so deeply expressed in the music of these concerts. John F. Kennedy once said at a critical moment in Berlin's history, 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' At this terrible moment, we are the ones who say with you, 'We are all New Yorkers."'

The philharmonic is on a concert tour throughout the United States to Boston, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Costa Mesa, Calif.

City officals want celebraties to stay away from "Ground Zero" where the World Trade Center once stood.

"We've asked celebrities and people in the entertainment business to please stay away from the site," said Richard Sheirer, director of the city's Office of Emergency Management. "It's a dangerous place."

While there have been daily visits to the 16-acre site by lawmakers, heads of state and even some celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Bette Midler, Chris Rock and Miss America Katie Harman, Sheirer explained that those visits are a "controlled situation" accompanied by heavy security.

However, Sheirer said that some celebraties have bypassed police to the restricted site and while their visits do lift the spirits of those working in the rumble, the city felt that the workers could get distracted and it could become a safety issue, plus the area is a crime scene.

Several of the seven buildings that made up the World Trade Center housed government security agencies and as the 1,000 workers sift throught he rubble looking for bodies, body parts and the black box and other evidence from the crashed airliners they're also looking for weapons and evidence from law enforcement agencies.

The World Trade Center buildings contained offices for U.S. Customs, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Internal Revenue Serivce, the Secret Service, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the rubble are safes containing evidence from crimes such as guns and drugs. If the evidence is not found intact, some of the cases may have to be dismissed. However, evidence from some of the agencies is stored in other parts of New York. Federal agents have guarded the rubble since Spet. 11 and they watch Ground Zero workers with binoculers.

A half billion in gold and silver bars that had been stored in a Twin Towers vault is expected to be recovered.

At a time when 40 percent of New Yorkers are afraid of flying, some 800 people from Oregon have booked a trip to the Big Apple, in a unique airlift that will take more than 60 flights that even has an operational name -- "Flight for Freedom."

"The mayor (New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani) said 'If you're thinking of coming to New York, do it now' so we are," said Sho Dozono, the chairman of the Portland, Ore. Chamber of Commerce and a travel agent.

The four-day trips of the Oregonians begin Thursday and they'll be easy to spot because they'll be wearing buttons "Oregon Loves NY." Originally, Dozono thought maybe as many of 200 people might book the bargain deal but four times that many did.

The New York City tour, organized by Dozono, is quite a deal. For under $435, the tourists get airfare, and three nights at the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where U.S. Rep. David Wu will host a dinner for them. They will see the city including Wall Street and visit a memorial to victims of the World Trade Center.

They couldn't come at a better time -- New York's $25 billion tourism industry took a big hit as a result of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Hotel occupancy rates, usually at 90 percent duing the prime tourist season from September to December has sunk to 30 percent. The hotel industry is taking a $7 million hit a day. Broadway is losing $5 million a week, and five shows have already closed.

Shopping has also suffered because of less less tourists and New Yorkers staying at home. Since Sept. 11, Federated Department Stories' sales have run approximately $110 million or 20 percent below plan, with the company's two Manhattan flagship stores -- Bloomingdale's on 59th Street and Macy's Herald Square -- ran approximately 40 percent below plan.

"During the past week, total company sales ran about 15 percent below plan," a Federated spokesman said. "While it still is difficult to estimate the ongoing trend, Federated's best estimate is that September's comparable-store sales will decline 15-20 percent."

Federated, based in Cincinnati and New York City, is one of the nation's leading department store retailers, with annual sales of more than $18.4 billion, the hardest hit are the small retailers.

Danny Dang, 40, who arrived in New York from Hong Kong 20 years ago, has been at 324 Canal Electronics the last 15 years. It's a store usually crowded with customers.

"We were closed a week," he said, the gesturing to the back of the large store where televisions to stereos were on display, past the mobile phones, cameras and tape recorders, but devoid of customers. "It's very slow. The whole street is quiet. All people buy are T-shirts and caps. No electronics. Nobody wants merchandise. It's never been like this."

Asked how he would pay the rent," he looked down dejectedly at a case showcase full of video and audio-cassette tapes and batteries and said, "That's a problem. It's three weeks now."

Across Canal Street, usually filled with traffic on a heavily traveled route connecting the Holland Tunnel with the Brooklyn Bridge, another merchant, who asked not to be identified, has a store crowded with merchandise ranging from batteries and watches to DVD players, vacuum cleaners, audio and electric accessories. There were only three customers in the store.

"Business is very bad since Sept. 11," he said, looking up from a long letter he was writing in longhand. "We were closed five days. The first time in 10 years."

His main complaint was that too much of lower Manhattan was shut down, closed to all pedestrian and vehicular traffic for too long.

"I came from a war-torn country (Vietnam) and if you block everything you just scare people," he said. "If you block the city it becomes dead."

Asked how he was doing with rent, he replied, "We got trouble, rent, employment. How can I pay the employees, my suppliers? Now multiply that by all the other stores."

However, some things are selling off the shelves. Red, white and blue ribbons, flags, T-shirts with flags on them, and anything with a picture of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers on it.

Selling well in mid-town Manhattan are T-shirts with the Twin Towers in front of a U.S. flag with "You Can Destroy It," written on it and beneath it "But You Can't Destroy The Spirit Of Freedom Of People In America. We Will Stay Together And Get Even Stronger." Another T-shirt that customers were buying had "God Bless America" over the Twin Towers forming the double-one in "9-11-2001."

A big-seller in Chinatown, are buttons with the Statue of Liberty in foreground, the Twin Towers in background and "Good-Bye" superimposed. Another popular selling well, was a photograph of lower Manhattan dominated by the now-gone Twin Towers.

The mayor said:

-- 4,986 people are registered as missing by the police

-- 396 declared dead

-- 310 identified dead

-- 64 firefighters declared dead, 2 civilian EMTs, 5 Port Authority officers

-- 4,392 listed as missing by relatives

-- 1,369 requested gov't assistance

-- 1,202 death certificate requested

-- 171,382 tons of material and rubble removed

-- 11,265 truckloads of rubble removed

-- 70 buildings damaged but stable, repair, cleaning

-- 12 buildings listed with major structural damage

-- 1 building torn down

-- no single occupancy cars, with exceptions, allowed to enter Manhattan below 63rd St.

-- bridge traffic into Manhattan down 12 percent to 75 percent

-- $100 million a week estimate for clean up

-- $40 billion estimate for cost of attack

-- $7 billion estimate to remove WTC rubble

(Reporting by Alex Cukan in Albany, N.Y.)

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