The ultimate memorial to carry on – or a misguided attempt at redemption?
Survivors and first responders devastated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks are divided over the news they can apply for “affordable” housing in a swanky new building just steps from Ground Zero.
The 900-foot 5 World Trade Center skyscraper will be built on the corner of Greenwich Street and Albany Street in Lower Manhattan and will include 1,200 luxury apartments – and offer stunning views of the site where more than 2,900 New Yorkers were murdered.
Under a new agreement negotiated by Gov. Kathy Hochul, 80 of the required 400 rent-stabilized housing units will be reserved for New Yorkers directly affected by the attacks — but some survivors are baffled by the agreement.
“I think it’s weird,” Marian Fontana bluntly told The Post. Her firefighter husband David was killed on 9/11which also happened to be their eighth wedding anniversary.
The Brooklyn-based author has lamented the lack of affordable housing in the Big Apple, but has no plans to apply for any of the apartments.
“Anyone want to live at the crash site where their loved one died?” asked Fontana, 57. “I wouldn’t even want to drive past that.”
On the internet, others expressed anger at the announcement after depictions of the skyscraper showed it looking directly at the 9/11 Memorial Pools at Ground Zero.
“Why would someone who had a horrific experience and survived want to live in this very place right now?” a distraught expert ponderedwhile another explained: “Honestly, I wouldn’t want to live there if my loved one had died in that attack. Bad memories.”
Households of three with annual incomes between $50,840 and $152,520 can apply for one of the 400 rent-stabilized apartments at 5 WTC, with rents ranging from $1,271 to $3,813 per month.
However, it is unclear whether these figures also apply to 9/11 survivors and first responders who are entitled to one of the 80 apartments reserved for them.
It also remains to be seen whether survivors and first responders will be selected at random or whether their applications will be evaluated by a team.
The Post has contacted Gov. Hochul’s office for more information.
Brookfield Properties and Silverstein Properties are developing 5 WTC but will take several years to complete.
When asked about the application process for 9/11 survivors and first responders, both companies said in a statement to The Post, “The details of the program are to be worked out with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.”
“There are a lot of questions,” Rachel Uchitel told The Post of the still unclear application process.
The podcaster – who moderates Miss Understand starring Rachel Uchitel — lost her fiancé Andy O’Grady in the attacks and said the trauma lives on nearly 22 years later.
“What do you mean by survivors?” asked Uchitel, 48, admitting he wasn’t sure who could qualify for the plush pads. “You mean someone who was actually in the building? Or someone who lost a loved one and could never pull themselves together again?”
Fontana agreed, saying, “So many people are affected.” [by 9/11] that it could become contentious.”
John Feal, a 9/11 responder who had his foot partially amputated after being crushed by an 8,000-pound piece of steel at Ground Zero, also admitted the application process could become bitter.
“If you put a number or a label on it, it starts to rule out,” Feal, 56, told The Post.
Tim Brown, a former FDNY firefighter who ran to the Twin Towers to save people on September 11, also admitted “the devil is in the details” and said any shortcomings would need to be addressed by officials.
However, he fully welcomes the announcement and can apply for one of the 80 affordable apartments.
“It made me really grateful that people actually thought of us,” Brown, 61, told The Post, adding that despite losing around 100 firefighter friends, he’s been forced to spend a lot of time at Ground Zero .
Brown, who has retired from the FDNY, now volunteers at the 9/11 Museum and meets friends at O’Hara’s – a pub popular with first responders past and present.
“I don’t think most people with my history react the way I react,” he admitted, saying most people affected by 9/11 were too traumatized to think about making a living to apply in the 5 WTC. “A lot of the guys and families I know don’t go back there. It’s hard and painful, and understandably so. I reacted differently.”
Brown, a Manhattan native who lives in Midtown, said moving downtown could be life-changing.
“My heart is down there. I don’t think it’s pathological,” he told the Post, praising officials for their “wonderful job” rebuilding the Ground Zero area.
“Yes, 9/11 is my whole life,” said Brown, who was 38 at the time of the attacks. “I didn’t have kids, I didn’t get married … If I could get cheap rent down there, I could do other things that I would love to do.”
Meanwhile, Feal – who has campaigned alongside comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart – praised the Victims Compensation Fund for the 11 were pushed out of town by rising rents.
However, he encouraged officials to go further and create many more rent-stabilized options for the heroes who are still traumatized by the terrorist attacks.
“Anyone who risks their life should be entitled to affordable housing and not have to worry about food getting on the table,” he told The Post.
While the 9/11 survivors and first responders are divided about whether they would ever live at the site of their trauma, they are all united in their grief as the 22nd anniversary of that fateful day draws nearer.
“The trauma never goes away,” Uchitel told The Post. “It’s something that’s stuck in my bones. It’s part of me.”
Fontana feels the same way.
“It doesn’t feel like 22 years at all,” she stated sadly. “Of course you get up and keep going. But you miss her all the time. You learn to live with it – but you never get over it.”