Volume 17 • Issue 23 | Oct. 29 - Nov. 4, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Corky Lee

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, foreground, looked out from the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center site with developer Larry Silverstein, who is also building the Freedom Tower at the W.T.C. site. Silverstein remains confident he will have the money rebuild offices at ground zero. “A billion here, a billion there — it isn’t what it used to be,” he quipped.

Silverstein shows off 7 W.T.C.’s mettle to Silver

By Josh Rogers

World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein showed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver around 7 W.T.C. Wednesday assuring the speaker that the building, expected to be completed early next year, will not only be one of the safest office buildings around, but that it will also help bring back the Downtown economy.

Silver saw the open-air 40th-floor and the 23rd-floor, where the windows are installed and many of the new safety features are in place.

The 52-story building is across the street from the W.T.C. site and collapsed the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001 after a fire started from burning debris that hit the building.

Silverstein pointed to the 10,000-pound concrete core that will protect the elevators, stairwells, sprinklers and the communication system. Each floor also has 70 tons of steel reinforcement, Silverstein said.

“This building will be built to last,” he said.

Silverstein said he accepted a federal report concluding that the building collapsed because the debris ignited the diesel fuel lines running in 7 W.T.C. Much of the diesel was stored in 7 W.T.C. for the city’s Office of Emergency Management command center. Silverstein said the diesel will be stored under an adjacent plaza to be built off the building’s footprint. The stairwells are 20 percent wider than building codes require in order to allow rescue workers more room to climb up while employees can evacuate. The stairwells also have airplane-type emergency lighting that Silverstein said has never been used in office buildings before.

Safety is also an issue during construction, which will soon involve over 1,000 workers. A construction worker fell to his death on Sept. 29 and on the day of the tour, another worker was taken to the hospital with a bloody foot. A Silverstein spokesperson said later that the worker stepped on a nail, was given a tetanus shot and later released.

Silverstein, who did not cross paths with the injured worker during the tour, said at the start that both 7 W.T.C. and the W.T.C. site would soon be buzzing with thousands of construction workers on different projects in a relatively confined space.

“At ground zero, there will be 10,000 people working there every day and that’s without the memorial, without the museum, without the cultural center, without the PATH,” he said.

Silverstein has the leasing rights to the site, owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and his workers began demolition work to prepare for construction of the Freedom Tower this summer. Extensive work below street level must be completed before construction on the new PATH commuter-subway station, the W.T.C. memorial and the proposed cultural buildings can begin.

The demolition of the parking lot by the Freedom Tower site is still not finished. Silverstein said it is a slow process because the protective slurry wall has to be stabilized as the lot is dismantled, and remnants of the lot are being preserved as historical artifacts of the Sept. 11 attack.

Both the lot and the Freedom Tower’s symbolic cornerstone, which was laid in the ground July 4, 2004 are visible from 7 W.T.C., as is the Statue of Liberty. To the north are views of the Empire State Building, to the East are landmark buildings such as the Municipal Building, and just to the west the Hudson River and the World Financial Center are also visible.

Silver said he was impressed how good the views are even from the 23rd floor. “The views are breathtaking,” he said. “They will come flocking here. It will sell itself.”

He said the return of office workers will help stimulate what many residents want — more and better places to eat, shop and have fun. Rebuilding will insure that “Downtown is better than ever,” Silver added. “It’s going to come back stronger than ever.”

Silverstein reiterated his confidence that he will have the money to complete the Freedom Tower and the four other offices planned for the trade center complex. Even if he wins his last major insurance lawsuit, he will only have about half the money he’ll need to complete the $7 billion project. In previous lawsuits, Silverstein has lost his claims that the two plane attacks constituted two separate occurrences entitling him to $7 billion, over double the estimated value of the W.T.C.

“A billion here, a billion there, it isn’t what it used to be,” he quipped. Later, he said he thought he’d be able to make up any shortfall with tax-free Liberty Bonds, a federal, post-9/11 program passed to stimulate development.


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