Let the Sunshine In

The leaking Oculus skylight will cost another $200K to fix

Early construction on the World Trade Center Transportation Hub's Oculus (Billie Grace Ward/Flickr)

Port Authority officials are currently working on repairing the damaged Oculus skylight at the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have already spent at least $50,000 on waterproofing the $3.9 billion dollar Manhattan transit hub’s glass ceiling, according to The Wall Street Journal, and are expected to spend another $200,000 on repairs. 

The skylight consists of dozens of glass panels that run the 355-foot length of the Oculus‘s spine and are powered by a mechanical system with 130 motors that move each of the panels in sync, rather than as two static hemispheres. Officials believe that the retractable skylight began leaking on to the marble concourse in 2018 after a rubber seal that spanned the length of the roof ripped due to a system malfunction. As the software failed to work, workers were forced to repeatedly start and stop the program to get the skylight to open and close. Despite sealing the ring around the skylight with water-resistant tape, the agency expects to spend more on sealing the skylight with an actual waterproof membrane instead of a stopgap. 



The feature is designed to open each year during the September 11 commemoration, envisioned by Calatrava as a symbol of a dove being released from a child’s hand. The architect’s initial proposal required that the entire roof pivot open but that idea was nixed after the building’s soaring budget doubled from the initial $2 billion dollar estimate. 

One Port Authority spokesman said last Thursday that the agency is conducting an engineering analysis on how to permanently repair the skylight. “While that analysis is ongoing, we are taking prudent steps to better protect the skylight with a more durable barrier system,” he said. 

City officials had anticipated the skylight would be able to open for the 2019 memorial, however, it remained closed for the first time since the building opened in 2016.

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