W.T.C. Command Center alterations questioned

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  The World Trade Center Command Center is moving its headquarters to W.T.C. Four, according to a recent announcement made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and confirmed by the New York Police Department.

The decision, which Bloomberg announced at the annual World Trade Center press conference on Sept. 7, came as a surprise to Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin during an interview this week.

“I don’t know why we weren’t notified — we asked to be notified,” said Menin.

Relocating the command center, now situated in Tribeca, to the W.T.C. site is a “questionable” move, she said. “I’d absolutely want to hear more from the Commissioner about this as to why it should be on the site itself. It has to be near the site, because it has to be proximate, but not [directly] on the site.”

Specifically, Menin fears that the command center could become a potential terrorist target if it is located at the redeveloped W.T.C. rather than in its vicinity — citing former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s widely criticized move to place the then-police command center at 7 W.T.C.

“When 9/11 happened, so many of the top commanders and officers at the site were out of communication with the rest of the field — that was a major issue,” said Menin.

Meanwhile, the command center, which has temporarily replaced the 1st Precinct horse stable on Ericsson Place, is now being scrutinized for what is considered to be potentially unlawful alterations to the building.

“We don’t think the [city Landmarks Preservation Commission] approved it,” said C.B. 1 Landmarks Committee Chair Roger Byrom. “So we sent an e-mail to the [Department of Buildings] and the L.P.C. saying, ‘Can you tell us what went wrong here.’”

L.P.C. Spokesperson Lisi de Bourbon said the commissioners are investigating the matter per the community’s request. “It’s a landmarked building,” she said. “We’re looking into whether a permit would be needed [to make renovations],” she said. “It’s not clear whether you needed one to begin with.”

C.B. 1 member Michael Connolly, president of the condominium at 27 North Moore Street, also raised the issue of noise and lights emanating from the newly constructed stairwell, which has purportedly been a disturbance to nearby residents.

“At the end of the day, I want the horses to come back,” said Connolly. “In the meantime, we need to address quality of life issues created by building a new staircase in the alley adjacent to the windows of a residential building.”

The nearby residents are outraged about it, said Connolly.

“They said, ‘how could this happen?’” noted Connolly.

The residents who complained weren’t available for comment as of press time.

Meanwhile, construction of W.T.C. 4 is well underway, according to Malcolm Williams, construction manager for Developer Silverstein Properties, who recently gave a tour of the tower to the Downtown Express.

Once fully built out, W.T.C. 4 will have a larger floor plate than does W.T.C. 7 but will share other features with its predecessor, such as a study, concrete core; massive, column-free floors; and floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the metropolitan area.

So far, the bottom half the building has been leased out: a quarter of it to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the other quarter to the city, which in addition to the first precinct will house the NYC Human Resources Administration. While office workers will enter the completed building on Greenwich Street, shoppers will access the building via Church Street, according to Williams.

As of late November, steel construction reached 56 stories, while construction of the tower’s outer curtain wall is 32 stories high. Workers are just beginning to install the building’s mechanical systems and elevators.

However the tower’s construction isn’t all that rosy. Williams and a team of engineers met with Liberty Street resident Howard and other local residents who recently expressed angst about pedestrian congestion caused by a sidewalk shed Silverstein erected last summer on the southern side of Liberty Street between Church and Greenwich Streets.

However, the engineers agreed with officials’ previous claims that nothing could be done to accelerate the speed of constructing W.T.C. 4’s southern façade — which, once finished, will eliminate the need for the sidewalk shed.

W.T.C. 3, also being handled by Silverstein, is now above grade by two levels. W.T.C. 2, whose foundations and basement levels will be built out by next September, is guaranteed only seven floors’ worth of financing by the Port Authority until the developer finds a 400,000-square-foot tenant (or approximately 10 floors) for the tower.

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