Volume 21, Number 46 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 27 - April 2, 2009
Downtown Express photos by Lorenzo Ciniglio
Work continues on the World Trade Center memorial near the South Tower’s footprint, right, but there is little work on the Tower 2 site as developer Silverstein Properties has reportedly run into financial difficulties, bottom. At left, work on the slurry wall, part of which will be visible in the memorial.
Bustle and delay at the W.T.C.
By Julie Shapiro
Progress and stagnation happen side by side in the World Trade Center site, and the contrast between the two is growing starker as work moves forward.
Steel for 1 W.T.C., the Freedom Tower, pokes 105 feet above ground, visible from blocks around. Sections of the memorial steel have risen nearly to street level, clearly delineating the pools that will mark the original tower footprints. And Tower 4’s foundation is well underway, with a field of metal piles pointing skyward.
But, a short walk away, the site earmarked for Tower 2 is silent. The vast cavern, excavated to 80 feet below street level, had nary a construction worker on Tuesday morning and no moving machines were visible on the flat sandy surface.
The Port is still finishing the overdue excavation of the western pieces of Towers 2, 3, and 4, which Silverstein Properties will build, and the Port is paying Silverstein $300,000 a day for the delay. But the reason Silverstein is already building Tower 4 but has not touched Tower 2 appears to be financial.
The Port and the city have already agreed to lease two-thirds of Tower 4, while Towers 2 and 3 have no tenants. The Wall Street Journal reported last Saturday that Silverstein wants the Port to help finance the towers, and that the Port is considering financing one of them.
“We are continuing to discuss with [Silverstein] how to best meet a changed market while ensuring the W.T.C. site is rebuilt in the best public interest,” the Port said in a statement.
Silverstein Properties did not comment.
Aside from the Tower 2 crater, the rest of the World Trade Center site was crawling with activity during a tour Downtown Express took this week. The white ribs Santiago Calatrava designed to mark the underground east-west connector are no longer visible, decked over with layers of metal that will support a new Fulton St. That east-west connector is now continuing beneath West St., as workers excavate a path that will lead to the World Financial Center. Running perpendicular to the connector and several dozen feet higher up, the future Greenwich St. cuts a wide, sunny path through the site.
“We’re seeing important construction progress on the site each day,” Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority, said in a statement. “However, much more work remains to be done, and we’ll continue to work aggressively until the site is fully rebuilt.”
In another sign of progress, the Port is expected to finalize the first lease for the Freedom Tower this week to a Chinese company that previously tried to lease space in Silverstein’s 7 W.T.C. Beijing Vantone Real Estate Company will lease about $190,000 square feet, or five full floors, The New York Observer reported Wednesday. The Port will likely approve the lease at its board meeting March 26.
Looming above the Tower 4 construction is one of the latest additions to the site: a tower crane Silverstein Properties installed at the beginning of the month. Local residents have turned a nervous eye to the crane after contractor Tishman Construction allowed it to dangle over cars and pedestrians on Church St. March 5.
The city Dept. of Buildings, which only recently gained the authority to issue violations on the W.T.C. site, stopped work on Tower 4 after the incident. Tishman presented a revised safety plan to the Port Authority the next week, and the Port was satisfied, so the D.O.B. lifted the stop-work order, said Steven Figueiredo, liaison with the D.O.B.
Figueiredo told Community Board 1’s Quality of Life Committee that the city did not see the new safety plan.
“We’re not privy to the safety plan,” Figueiredo said.
The D.O.B. is still looking into why Tishman allowed the crane to be suspended over the busy street. Tishman should have sought a permit from the city Dept. of Transportation to close the street during the work, Figueiredo said.
In the depths of the memorial construction, the “Survivors Staircase” that some office workers used to flee the site on 9/11 is still visible, though steel is starting to surround it. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum will add other large artifacts to the site as it is built, since there won’t be room to bring them in once the construction is complete.
The next artifact to arrive will be the “Last Column,” a 36-foot steel beam covered with mementos from rescue workers before it was removed in May 2002, said Michelle Breslauer, spokesperson for the memorial museum. The column will be moved into place this summer, likely with a cover to protect it from the surrounding construction.
Meanwhile, the memorial’s structure will continue to take shape. Workers will pour concrete slabs this spring, and steel installation will finish by the end of the year.
The World Trade Center site also made news last week when the Port Authority’s tentative agreement with St. Nicholas Church fell through. The Port was going to do a land swap with the church, which was destroyed on 9/11, and also pay the church $20 million, according to reports. But the church reportedly wanted the money upfront and wanted to rebuild a dome that would have dwarfed the 9/11 memorial pavilion, which the Port found unacceptable. Now, the Port plans to acquire the land beneath the church through eminent domain so the Port can build the vehicle security center, according to reports.