World Trade Center site shows signs of rebirth

Three steel pillars rising from the World Trade Center site's massive pit are the first visible signs of the Freedom Tower, the centerpiece of rebuilding efforts six years after the September 11 attacks.

World Trade Center site shows signs of rebirth
The tower's pillars now reach to just beneath street level from the bedrock 70 feet below ground level and will eventually rise to 1,776 feet -- symbolic of the date of U.S. independence.

But some say progress at the site has been painful.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from lower Manhattan, was blunt this week in his assessment of how long it has taken to get to this point. "The rebuilding process, as we all know, was in a shambles," he said.

After years of scuffling over what would replace the trade center's 110-story Twin Towers, renderings and models of the rebuilding plan have been fine-tuned and the public can now see concrete progress taking place around a sea of cranes at the site.

Next week, the annual September 11 commemoration will take place off site for the first time because what was a gaping hole for the first five anniversaries is now a busy construction site where four new skyscrapers, a transit center, a museum and a memorial are going up.

In addition to the Freedom Tower, due to be completed in 2012, the designs for the three other skyscrapers at the site have been refined to include taller lobbies, space for art, and exterior elevators. The last of those building is scheduled to be finished by 2013.

There were only "a few dozen construction workers puttering around" a year ago when designs of those three buildings were unveiled, said Anthony Shorris, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land.

Today, nearly 600 construction workers are building a new retaining wall. Workers are also installing supports under the north-south subway line that splits the site in two, so they can tunnel underneath without stopping the trains.

Builders say construction is also tricky because the Freedom Tower must straddle a commuter line and the site's complexity -- so many buildings and so much infrastructure -- is unprecedented in New York City.

ON SCHEDULE

"I'm not here to tell you we've solved every construction problem. In fact, far from it," said Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia at a briefing this week.

Among those problems is the neighboring Deutsche Bank building, damaged by the attacks and being dismantled piece-by-piece to make way for a new tower.

Fire swept through the building on August 18 and killed two firefighters. No date has been set for resuming demolition.

But agency officials said the World Trade Center rebuilding, including a mass transit hub, was on schedule.

"We remain confident that we'll meet the schedule that was laid out," Shorris said.

Developer Larry Silverstein leased the World Trade Center from the Port Authority just two months before it was destroyed. But a series of clashes between him and the Port Authority and with insurers repeatedly delayed rebuilding.

The $16 billion of public and private investment to redevelop the 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site was also delayed when police raised concerns they were vulnerable to attack after already being hit twice, first in 1993 and then in 2001.

"It has been a bumpy road at times," Silverstein said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Eylül 2007, 10:23
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