A special exhibition that opened in New York Thursday showcases the public's visions for rebuilding lower Manhattan, nine months after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Municipal Art Society of New York was inundated with over 19,000 ideas and images when it asked the general public what should happen to the 6.5 hectare area left bare by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Thirty five hundred of those ideas and images make up Imagine New York: An Exhibition of Ideas.

Aimee Molloy of the Municipal Arts Society says that she and her colleagues extracted 49 "common themes" from the thousands of proposals they received. She hopes the themes will be an integral part of the decision-making process that will form the "new" Lower Manhattan.

"We're going to work to make sure that these ideas are heard, and that people will continue to have a forum to comment on plans as they are introduced, and to advance not any of these individual ideas, but the public process," she said.

A memorial is the centerpiece of just about every proposal on display in the exhibit. One contributor suggests a modular steel skeleton, similar in shape and size, to one of the twin towers. Another imagines a three-story staircase crowded with bronze figures of firefighters and evacuees. Evacuees descend while the firemen ascend. At the top of the staircase, the firemen begin to disappear.

Monica Iken, who lost her husband in the terrorist attacks, was chosen by New York Governor George Pataki to represent victims' families on his advisory committee for the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. She finds the ideas interesting, but is concerned that drive to rebuild is being rushed.

"People that have been directly affected are not ready to rush the process. They want to take time to make sure that we can do this right," she said. "Especially with September 11 around the corner. Most families are just waking up now and coming to the realization that that is our loved ones' final resting place. Two-thirds of us don't have remains."

Ms. Iken says she just wants a tranquil place where the bereaved can go to be close to the people they lost.