New York's skyline belongs to everyone

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NEW YORK >> You glance toward Lower Manhattan and expect to see a single tower where two once stood. You delight in the spectacle of sunlight glinting off its slivered facade.

Suddenly, you realize, the new 1 World Trade Center — the Freedom Tower — has become familiar.

And 15 years after the twin towers disappeared abruptly from the skyline, they have begun to fade from popular consciousness.

They once nearly rivaled the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building as simple, graphic representations of the complex idea of New York. In movies and logotypes, on knickknacks and letterheads, two parallel strokes meant only one thing. Now, a shaft of slender, alternating isosceles triangles — so simple a child could draw it — is coming to mean the same thing.

Campagna & Sons of Brooklyn, which makes boxes for pizzerias around Lower Manhattan and nearby New Jersey cities like Hoboken and Weehawken, carries a Freedom Tower design, in 10-, 12-, 14-, 16- and 18-inch sizes. Instagram currently counts nearly 200,000 posts tagged #oneworldtradecenter. Fishs Eddy, an imaginative housewares store in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, has introduced the new 1 World Trade Center to its popular "212" line.

But dinner plates and other "212" merchandise designed before Sept. 11, 2001, will still have the twin towers in the silhouetted skyline, Julie Gaines, an owner, said.

The twin towers have not vanished from the insignia of the New York Fire Department. But last year, on the department's 150th anniversary, they gave way temporarily to a commemorative patch designed by Firefighter Richard Miranda, of Rescue Company 1, showing the new 1 World Trade Center.

The pizza box was designed by Joseph Campagna, who runs the business begun by his grandfather and carried on by his father and uncle. He was inspired to draw up a patriotic tableau with an oversize American flag flying over the new tower. The Campagnas can see the building from their headquarters on the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

"It got bad for a while," Campagna said. "But seeing the new tower being built was like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel."

The design is so popular, he said, that some pizzerias refuse anything else. "If I run out of boxes and send them my stock design — Italian village — they'll say, 'I don't want it,'" he said. "It's been a smash hit."

And not just at pizzerias.

Using Times Square tchotchke shops as a barometer, the 2-year-old tower is already nearing the apotheosis of kitsch. Though the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building have nothing to fear yet, the Chrysler Building and Brooklyn Bridge may want to look to their laurels. The Freedom Tower is gaining fast.

You can now buy snow globes with the tower. Or paperweights. Spoon rests. Key chains. Flasks. Compacts. Shot glasses. Or sheer, provocatively cut panties known as cheekies.

"I've got this big smile on my face as you talk about souvenir shops," said T.J. Gottesdiener, managing partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which designed 1 World Trade Center. (David M. Childs was the lead architect.) "'Icon' is the right word, but some of the reproductions are so grotesquely misproportioned that it's very funny."

Who controls such depictions?

From a legal standpoint, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which developed the building in partnership with the Durst Organization. The authority has applied for trademark No. 86931748 on "the depiction of a building with a spire on top," including its elongated triangular facets.

In theory, the authority's permission would have to be obtained to use this mark on hundreds of items that are listed on the trademark application, including, but not limited to, basting brushes, dust ruffles, mud flaps, fanny packs, mouse pads, rompers, pet-hair ornaments and golf divot repair tools.

But there is no practical way to police such depictions.

Two years ago, the agency tried to crack down on Fishs Eddy, saying the use of the twin tower silhouettes on its ceramic ware "interferes with the Port Authority's control of its own reputation."

John Oliver responded wickedly on the show "Last Week Tonight" by introducing a Port Authority Bus Terminal dinner plate, with silhouettes of a woman vomiting in a garbage can, a man urinating in a water fountain, a condom and a rat orgy.

The authority dropped the matter. Gaines said, "They would have to sue every souvenir shop in the city, not just us."

"Our position is consistent," she added, "that we don't believe anyone owns the silhouette of the New York City skyline."

Put another way, everyone owns it.

"One World Trade Center and every other structure on the site hold our impossible wish: to have back everyone who was lost on Sept. 11," Judith Dupré wrote in "One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building."

"Of all the challenges that the World Trade Center has had to face, perhaps the biggest one is exorcising the ghosts of the structures that it replaced."


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