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The 9/11 Memorial, New York City

Sixteen years ago, I took photographs of the awful remains of this area: fine gray dust blanketed everything, and the smell of disaster lingered in the air. It is inspiring to witness New York City’s transformation since September 11th.

This view is from the 45th floor of a new hotel just a block south of the site, shot this past May at dawn (no cars). Yes, that is the Empire State Building uptown at 34th Street, looking tiny (wide-angle lens). But the best thing about this view is what you cannot see: the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, hidden underground. What a feat. It connects six subway stops, the PATH trains to New Jersey, a huge shopping arcade, and a stunning PATH station — all underground and protected from the elements. It extends to the Hudson River, where Pumphouse Park sits next to a boat basin, a ferry terminal, and Brookfield Place, another shopping center.

The centerpiece of the hub is the Oculus, by Santiago Calatrava: a bit of its white skeleton peeks out at the lower right center of the photograph. Critics have had their day with this building, but heavens, it keeps the rain and snow away. As a former NYC worker bee, I think the project is a gift to the thousands who travel to work in or around lower Manhattan and can now walk in a quiet, warm, car-free, pedestrian space.

This view shores up my faith in the resilience, creativity, and importance of cities. Read Climate of Hope by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope; you will stand up and cheer.