More streets will make Freedom Tower less secure
By Bill Hine
Security needs to be an integral part of planning for the World Trade Center site. Last-minute changes can produce problems, as is now reported with the redesign of the Freedom Tower.
The police department has asked officials to move the tower a safe distance away from the West Side Highway, but there are additional security concerns including the Path trains underneath the site. There is no need to add unnecessary risks during and after construction by placing the tower over an active rail system. The tower could be located east of the rail facility with a more secure, and less crowded site.
The current direction for the site can be traced to the October 2002 program instructions that were given to the seven planning teams. Fulton St. was slated to be extended to the highway, even though the street had not previously been on the W.T.C. site.
Since 9/11, streets with security-sensitive facilities have increasingly been barricaded or closed, as happened at Broad and Wall Sts., at Penn Station during last years national convention, at the United Nations during special events and elsewhere.
Yet, plans would concentrate crosstown traffic from the southern end of Manhattan onto Fulton St., which is to become the anchor for an entertainment district. The extension of this street would be alongside the Freedom Tower and the memorial, bringing increased security risks, congestion, and frustrated, honking drivers.
The Fulton St. extension should not be built. Although modifying the plans and environmental review would take time, that is better than wasting time after construction in an attempt to correct problems. It is also better than having a permanent facility with permanent problems.
Most of the seven planning teams included connections between towers. Pedestrian bridges have been part of the Financial District for many decades and connect the towers at the World Financial Center. If such an option had been available on 9/11 for upper floors of the Twin Towers, hundreds of lives potentially could have been saved. And virtually all of the teams had buildings with flat roofs, which would allow rescues like those that lifted people to safety when the bomb exploded.
Freedom Tower security requirements will likely eliminate the extensive use of glass surfaces, to a height of ten floors or more. Instead, protective walls may be required.
The original site plan by Daniel Libeskind focused on a series of towers that partially encircled the W.T.C. footprints. A curved, raised walkway to view the memorial site was included that echoed the tower arrangement. The concept could be adjusted to accept the multi-story protective walls, with the walkway placed in an offset neat the top of the walls. Connections between streets would continue the concept. To facilitate the curved alignment, the three local streets that border the memorial site could bow slightly outward. This would retain view corridors, while allowing trees to show the memorials location from a distance.
Updating plans is essential to increase security, and changes are needed before other improvements are blocked by plans and construction.
Bill Hine, a former member of a transportation advisory board to the Manhattan borough president, is an industrial designer who lives Downtown.