Volume 20, Number 49 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | APRIL 19 - 26, 2008

Port reports on World Trade Center progress

By Julie Shapiro

The Port Authority updated the community on a slew of Lower Manhattan construction projects this week — and at times the board members seemed unable to believe the good news.

The R/W station at Cortlandt St., closed since 2005, will reopen this fall, said Quentin Brathwaite, assistant director of World Trade Center construction for the Port Authority.

“That would be unbelievable,” replied Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee.

“You’re talking about fall of ’08, right?” board member Barry Skolnick asked. Brathwaite nodded.

To reopen the station, the Port Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority may refurbish a pre-9/11 concourse connecting the platforms to 1 Liberty Plaza, Brathwaite said.

Brathwaite also told the board that he is working with the M.T.A. to put an elevator into the World Trade Center stop on the E train. Passengers previously used an elevator at the PATH station to access the E train, but when the temporary PATH entrance on Church St. closed last week, subway passengers lost the connection to the elevator. Skolnick and other board members have been pressing the M.T.A. and Port Authority for months to add a new elevator.

“You are listening to us!” Hughes said, beaming at Brathwaite.

“Well, they’re delayed on everything else,” Skolnick muttered, referring to the M.T.A.

The closure of the Church St. temporary PATH entrance meant that commuters had to use the new temporary entrance on Vesey St. Monday morning was the first test of how the new entrance would fare during rush hour by itself, and there was a lot of pedestrian congestion, especially between 8:30 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., Brathwaite said.

To ease the passage of walkers, the city Department of Transportation is lengthening the green light on Vesey St. at Church St., allowing more people to cross Church St. from west to east. Depending on the results, the D.O.T. may also change light times at two other intersections: Barclay St. at West Broadway and Vesey St. at West Broadway and Greenwich St.

* * *

Brathwaite also gave updates on Towers 2, 3 and 4, which Silverstein Properties is building. Silverstein recently finished doing test blasts at the sites for Towers 3 and 4 and is now preparing to do production blasting, to ready the bathtub for the foundations of the towers, designed by Richard Rogers and Fumihiko Maki. Workers will blow warning whistles before blasts to advise residents, workers and pedestrians, Brathwaite said.

Just to the north, the Port Authority is excavating the Tower 2 site, which it must turn over to Silverstein Properties by June 30 or else face a $300,000-a-day penalty. The Port faced a similar deadline for Towers 3 and 4 and ultimately paid Silverstein $14.4 million after missing the Dec. 31, 2007 deadline by nearly seven weeks.

But Brathwaite said things look better at Tower 2 and the Port expects to meet the June 30 deadline. There is less dense rock at Tower 2, meaning that the Port likely will not have to use hoe rams, large jackhammers, to finish excavating. The density of the rock is what delayed the excavation at Towers 3 and 4, and the pounding of the hoe rams kept residents up all night long late last fall into the winter.

Glenn Guzi, a Port Authority program manager, said the Port would try not to work between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. But Bill Love, a board member who lives in Gateway Plaza, said he recently looked out his window at 1 a.m. and saw two machines digging at the Tower 2 site.

After resident complaints during the excavation for Towers 3 and 4, the Port Authority agreed to pay for soundproof windows in three residential buildings: 110 Liberty St., 125 Cedar St. and 90 West St. The Port is working with building owners but no windows have been installed yet, Guzi said. He added that the Port has no plans to extend the program to additional buildings, like Gateway Plaza.

Work is also moving ahead at the Freedom Tower, where passersby will begin to see steel rising past street level in the late summer or early fall, Brathwaite said.

* * *

Two separate projects are happening right now at the Memorial Museum. First, workers are completing the foundations for the steel superstructure. By the summer, steel will begin to rise, though it will be far below street level and out of sight.

Also, Port Authority is building a new slurry wall on the west side of the site to hold back the Hudson River. The new wall will reinforce the existing slurry wall, which will remain in place and exposed as an exhibit in the museum.

* * *

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation sent two representatives to the C.B. 1 meeting to update the board on abatement work at 130 Liberty St., the former Deutsche Bank building where a fire killed two firefighters last August. The building needs to be decontaminated before it can be demolished.

The L.M.D.C. recently moved to double shifts at Deutsche, and now 150 to 200 workers are in the building each day, spokesperson Mike Murphy said. Eventually, 300 to 400 workers a day will be in the building.

The workers are finishing up preliminary abatement work and will soon start formal abatement, doing two floors at a time. The decontamination chambers on floors 18 and 19 are nearly complete — workers just have to line the chambers with plastic. Abatement on 18 and 19 will start by the end of this week, Murphy said. In the meantime, workers will build a decontamination chamber for floors 16 and 17. The building is still on schedule to be abated and demolished by the end of the year, he said.

After demolishing the building, the Port is planning to build a vehicle security center there, which might go beneath new headquarters for JPMorgan Chase. Last month Chase moved to buy Bear Stearns and acquire the Stearns headquarters in Midtown, throwing Chase’s plans for the Tower 5 site into question.

Hughes, of C.B. 1, recently attended a meeting at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office where a lawyer for JPMorgan said the firm still plans to build at 130 Liberty St., but that they may eliminate the trading floors, reducing the “beer belly” in the building’s original design or eliminating it entirely.

“There seemed to be a commitment to move employees to Tower 5,” Hughes said.

* * *

Joe Schwed, the Port Authority’s new site safety manager for the World Trade Center, attended the meeting to explain the safety procedures at the site, including weekly safety meetings. Schwed is also charged with addressing two of the community’s most common complaints: noise and dust.

To deal with noise, the Port Authority is extending the sound barrier on Church St. around the entire site, Schwed said. To deal with dust tracked out of the site by construction vehicles, the Port recently bought a heavy-duty street sweeper. The machine throws down water, uses bristles to scrub the street and then vacuums up the dirt and water. Several community members said the new machine is helping, but dust still escapes from the site.

Several C.B. 1 members recently got a preview of the street sweeper in action, and a select few got a turn behind the wheel. As the Port Authority representatives clicked through PowerPoint slides at the meeting, a photo of the sweeper popped up with none other than Catherine McVay Hughes behind the wheel, grinning at the camera.

“I didn’t drive it!” Hughes said, laughing.

Julie@DowntownExpress.com





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