Volume 16 • Issue 34 | January 23 - 29, 2004

W.T.C. train station unveiled

By Josh Rogers

Exterior and interior views of the proposed design by Santiago Calatrava. Below, the center’s roof is open.

Santiago Calatrava used crayons, paper and an easel Thursday to draw the pictures that inspired him to design a $2-billion World Trade Center transit hub which leaders hope will be the steam to drive Lower Manhattan’s economic recovery.

Calatrava drew a picture of a child releasing a dove and said the proposed glass canopies hovering over the center at Church and Fulton Sts. are reminiscent of a bird’s wings. Light would shine down to train platforms 60 feet below street level. On mild days, the canopies could be opened and the roof of the center would sway with the wind. Every Sept. 11, “maybe birds can be released by children in a sign of hope,” Calatrava told the crowd at the Winter Garden, many of whom seemed enthralled with the plans. On colder days, the canopies would serve as wind protection.

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

Santiago Calatrava explained his design for the World Trade Center hub at the Winter Garden Thursday.

It would connect the PATH commuter line to the subway lines going to the W.T.C., and have underground passageways to the nearby Broadway-Nassau-Fulton subway and to the Winter Garden.

“This is exactly what is needed for Lower Manhattan,” developer Larry Silverstein told Downtown Express. Silverstein, who owns the leasing rights to the W.T.C., has had lukewarm reactions to previous Winter Garden unveilings of the W.T.C. site and memorial plans, but he did not hesitate to say that the Spanish architect’s plan would draw firms to the office buildings he hopes to build at the trade center site.

Others raved too.

“I love this,” said Madelyn Wils, the first to stand while applauding Calatrava’s presentation. “This embodies everything that we could possibly want for Downtown.”

Wils, the chairperson of Community Board 1, is also on the board of directors of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and is on the corporation’s transportation subcommittee. She said the center would also help attract destination-type retail stores such as Nordstrom’s to Lower Manhattan.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns ground zero, hopes to begin construction by the end of the year and open the first phase by the end of 2006. The P.A. hired Calatrava, 52, an architect and engineer who is internationally known for his train stations. He has designed Oriente Station in Lisbon, Stadelhofen Station in Zurich as well as the Milwaukee Art Museum. DMJM + Harris, and STV Group are also working with Calatrava

The full center could open by the end of 2008. It would be built around the temporary outdoor World Trade Center PATH station, which reopened in November.

Although the design seemed to receive universal praise at the Winter Garden, where the crowd included Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, P.A. officials, business and residential leaders, support of course was not unanimous.

Henry Stern, a veteran of city government who founded New York Civic, a new think tank, said he has no doubt the initial rave reviews about the design are valid, but he thinks the cost is excessive since it won’t add any new train service to Lower Manhattan. He said he skipped the presentation because “I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.”

“Public money burns holes in public officials’ pockets very quickly,” said Stern, who was Parks Commissioner for 14 years and a City Councilmember for nine. “No one is saying it is ugly, but is it necessary?”

The $2 billion comes out of the $21.4 billion federal aid package passed after 9/11. Aside from Stern, the W.T.C. transit center received little opposition, particularly compared to other Downtown transportation proposals such as a vehicular tunnel for West St. and the renovation of South Ferry.

Stern said it is good the new plan allows for future connections to J.F.K. Airport and the Long Island Rail Road because that would represent new service to Downtown.

“That’s what you need, connections to where people want to go,” said Stern. “This [new center] is all existing service.”

Officials are studying four ways to connect the as-yet unnamed center to the L.I.R.R. and J.F.K. Port Authority officials say the options would have platforms adjacent to the new center with an easy underground connection. The options are expected to be released shortly, and Pataki has said a final airport-commuter link option will b selected in April.

The governor said Calatrava’s hub “will not only link to the ferries and the subways, but it will link to the new train that will go to J.F.K.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Center, which plans to build a connecting $750 million Fulton Transit Center had originally proposed a moving walkway to connect the two hubs, but P.A. officials wondered whether the M.T.A. was still planning to spend the money on the walkway. An M.T.A. spokesperson did not respond to a question about the walkway the day of the Calatrava unveiling.

Calatrava, speaking in heavily-accented English, said even when all of the surrounding buildings are built, although there will be shadows in part of the center for part of the day, the open and light feeling would remain. “Throughout the day, the light will change,” he said. “It will also be beautiful [as it changes]”

David Childs, Silverstein’s architect who designed the proposed Freedom Tower and 7 W.T.C., under construction nearby, said he thinks lots of light will still be there after all of the buildings are built.

“I think the light will come down and filter through the way he designed it,” said Childs.

The clear northern canopy will hover over the Wedge of Light plaza proposed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the W.T.C. site plan architect. When Libeskind first proposed the plaza he said the sun “would shine without shadow” every Sept. 11 between 8:46 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., representing the times when the first plane hit the tower and the second tower collapsed. After a critic pointed out that there would be shadows in the plaza every Sept. 11 morning, the description was amended to say there would be special lighting changes between the two times and light would also reflect into the plaza from nearby buildings.

Calatrava’s design keeps the outline of the plaza so that the angle of the sun corresponds to the two times and the clear canopy allows for sun. Libeskind called Calatrava’s interpretation of the Wedge idea “brilliant.”

Calatrava said he wanted the center to give the feeling of “life, lightness and hope.”

Pataki recalled that every conversation he ever had with the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the former senator New York senator, “no matter what the topic, he would always lament ‘we don’t build grand things anymore.’ ”

Moynihan pushed for the Farley-Penn Station renovation that is on track, and would have been a strong proponent of this plan too, Pataki said.

Mayor Bloomberg was equally impressed with Calatrava’s plan. “ ‘Wow,’ ” said the mayor, “ has gotta be the first word that comes to mind.”



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