It's been one year since we began walking the circumference of the World Trade Center site and taking photos of the progress. A lot can happen in a year. The city and state are in a tussle over the Memorial Museum bringing construction there to a halt. Larry Silverstein has threatened to cap Tower Three at at seven stories instead of 80 if he doesn't get a lead tenant by the end of the year. Pat Foye, the new head of the Port Authority has called the PA's Trade Center focus a "mission drift" and ordered a special committee to audit the years overseen by his predecessor, Chris Ward. And now The New York Post reports that the underground loading dock for One World Trade won't be completed by the time the first tenants move in. News from the last couple of months has been so bad that we thought we'd sift through some of our old photos to focus on the work that was completed over the past year. And while One World Trade continues its march upward (it's nearing the 1,776 feet), other projects on or near the site are almost complete or are on schedule to be finished in the next couple of years. Brookfield's renovations of the World Financial Center have begun. Work at Fulton Street Transit Station by Grimshaw continues to chug forward. CUNY's Fiterman Hall by Pei Cobb Freed was recently capped. And a new visitors center for the memorial opened on West Street.
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Richard Rogers' planned 80-story Three World Trade Center could come in a little short—okay, 73-stories short—if office tenants aren't found for the under-construction tower by the end of the year. Crain’s reports that developer Larry Silverstein plans to cap the tower at seven floors and fill the podium with retail uses. If an anchor tenant is later found—as late as 2020—the building's cap can be removed and construction resumed to reach its original height. Experts said the economy is to blame as large-scale office tenants are reluctant to spend millions on new space. "The willingness of large-scale tenants to commit in this environment is limited because companies don't want to go out and spend a lot of money," Peter Hennessy, president of Cassidy Turley's New York Tristate Region, told Crain's. "It's not the building; it's the market." News of the potential capping comes as no surprise, as a 2010 agreement between Silverstein and the Port Authority dictated that the developer prelease 400,000 square feet and line up $300 million for Three World Trade before the agency would back the project's debt. Silverstein's adjacent 72-story Four World Trade Center by Fumihiko Maki pre-leased about 600,000 square feet of space and will be complete next year.
It had to happen before midnight December 31. And it did, although quietly. Downtown Express reports that five founding board members for the World Trade Center Performing Arts Center (PAC) were announced by National September 11 Memorial President Joe Daniels in the nick of time, in order not to forfeit access to $100 million in LMDC funds set aside in fall 2010 for the lone surviving cultural venue--apart from the September 11 museum--at the site, where once many were envisioned as the most sure-fire way to lift ground zero out of the psychological depths of mourning for the lost. The first board members of PAC to be designed by Frank Gehry will be, in addition to Mayor Bloomberg, who is chair of the National September 11 Memorial board but will be represented ex-officio by First Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris: Vidicom founder Christy Ferer; CB1 Chairwoman Julie Menin; developer Larry Silverstein; Brookfield’s John Zuccotti; and Zenia Mucha, a vice president at Walt Disney Company. In addition to fundraising, the board will make the decision about the performing arts center’s location, currently thought to be directly east of One World Trade Center, although the site for Tower 5 is also in play and is the choice of board member Menin. The $100 million will support construction and administrative costs. An additional $60 million will finance Gehry’s design, “one-sixth of which has already been spent,” according to Downtown Express.
Neither blizzards, an earthquake, or Hurricane Irene slowed down work here at 21 Murray Street. Nor did any of these disrupt work down the street at the World Trade Center. The demonstrations at Zuccotti Park did not get in the way, nor the spontaneous turn out following the death of Osama bin Laden. Construction only paused for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Some of the year's biggest stories sat at our doorstep, and quite often, we only had to go downstairs to capture their images. Here are a few photos of the news and news-makers taken downtown, as well as a few from uptown, across town, and over the river...
In the days immediately following the show of solidarity on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Port Authority and Governor Cuomo retreated to one corner and Mayor Bloomberg and the Sept 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation to another over accusations of $300 million in cost overruns that neither party has agreed to pay. Construction of the museum has ground to a halt decreasing the likelihood that the Museum will open next year as promised. On December 15, the Governor told Albany radio host Fred Dicker that the Port Authority was “on the verge” of suing the Foundation. The PA charged that the Foundation has not provided $156 million for infrastructure costs and has subsequently not reimbursed the Authority for awarded contracts since immediately after the anniversary. On the radio show, Cuomo said $300 million was owed to the PA, an amount said to include newly revised project costs as well as money already spent on infrastructure. In a statement, Michael Frazier, the foundation’s spokesperson, said, “The 9/ll Memorial has met every funding commitment. There is no validity to the Port Authority’s claim; in fact, as recently as yesterday this claim was half of this amount. The Memorial has a counterclaim against the Port totaling more than $140 million. The Mayor clarified all of this today.” In a rebuttal made at a news conference on Friday at a Bronx elementary school, Mayor Bloomberg said, “We don’t owe anything.” While noting that the city is working with PA to resolve the issue, he added, “It’s hard to see us getting to a courtroom, but if it has to go there, it has to go there.” A source familiar with the situation said that there is a $300-500 million bill lurking and unaccounted for, but that it has to do with site-wide security costs. At issue as well is the dedicated task force assembled by former PA head Chris Ward to cut through previous disagreements, which may have been disbanded when the new director Patrick Foye took over. Whether the city or the Port Authority is responsible for escalating security costs seems unclear. With a virtual halt in construction, Frazier said in a phone call that the timely completion of the Museum is endangered. “The Museum was next in line to be completed before Towers Four and even One. What’s really at stake now are all the items and donations by family members and others that were entrusted to us to preserve but are now in storage and in jeopardy.”
Last Friday, AN went to the 9/11 Memorial, without a press pass, an official tour guide, or a hard hat. We went as a neighbor and experienced the place as any other visitor might. First, we attempted to get our ticket online. After checking the availability on Tuesday, we dithered, and by Wednesday online tickets were gone. But at the temporary exhibition space on Liberty Street, and a manager told us that a $20 ticket to the museum would get us into the memorial without reservations. After skipping the exhibition, we went through a series of checkpoints akin to international travel at JFK. The experience was a sobering reminder of one of the many aftereffects resulting from the attacks. Everything metal had to be removed and placed into an x-ray machine, but shoes did not have to be taken off. The staff at the metal detectors were stern and efficient. The line moved swiftly. At the following two or three additional checkpoints, administrators became friendlier. On entering the plaza, the public was set free. Watching the crowd interact with the space was almost as intriguing as memorial itself. Boy scout troops scampered, parents called out, as the crowd headed toward the South Pool where they clustered for a first glimpse. The recreational mood dissipated as the crowd dispersed and began to walk around the pool. The scale began to take root and voices lowered. By the time they reached Snøhetta's pavilion, more than a few visitors seemed disoriented. Several gazed through the glass at original World Trade columns and wondered aloud if this was in fact where the towers once stood. Others explained that the pools were the footprints. Again, the crowd regrouped and conversed, before separating and drifting off to the next pool. The light on the original column was in fact among the warmest light on the plaza. The the pool's lighting felt as cool as the water itself--stark but not sterile. The lamppost columns spread throughout the plaza in slim vertical gestures, so that the temporary incandescent washing the World Trade columns provided an oddly warm punctuation to the entire site.
It's been a while since we did the once around the super block that is the World Trade Center site. We held off on WTC Updates until the Tenth Anniversary news fest subsided. Now that all eyes are on the Zuccotti Park and Occupy Wall Street, we figured it'd be a good time to take another walkabout. From an urban planning standpoint, the Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) status of Zuccotti Park has stirred up quite a bit of interest. As the 9/11 Memorial opened only last month—and remains a highly controlled space—the only way to navigate around the site is to walk through a series of interior and exterior POPS. Right now Occupy Wall Street's takeover of the Brookfield-owned park is getting the lion's share of attention, but elsewhere there are little known gatherings in other POPS around Lower Manhattan that happen every day.
Just around the corner from AN's office sits the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. The image of a police officer guarding the mostly empty cast iron building has become such a part of the landscape, that we barely notice it anymore. But today, the doors were flung open onto a brightly lit gallery space adorned with color photographs of New York children representing almost every nation on earth. Just as Port Authority and Silverstein executives have discouraged the use of the term Ground Zero in favor of the World Trade Center, the proposed community center would no doubt like to shed Ground Zero from its name. The frosted logo on the window simply states Park 51. Literature available at the reception desk describes the vision of a community center "modeled after the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side." The ambitious project undertaken by photographer Danny Goldfield began after he met Rana Sodhi, a Sikh from Arizona whose brother was killed in a hate crime. Assisted by New Yorkers with backgrounds as diverse as the children in the photographs, the portraits' playful charm belie the deeper message.
As night descended on a memory-laden New York City on Sunday, September 11, 88 light cannons were powered up, shooting beams of light into the air representing the profiles of the original Twin Towers. We stopped by Saturday night, as crews were putting the finishing touches on the display and double checking that all the lights performed flawlessly, and the close-up result was nothing short of amazing. The Tribute in Light display is perched atop a parking garage adjacent the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, standing close to One World Trade Center, which itself was wrapped in red, white, and blue lights for the commemoration. On the garage roof, two twin 48-foot square rings of light projected four miles into the partially cloudy Saturday night sky, creating an aura of tranquility that brought to mind sitting in a great cathedral or perhaps superman's lair. The only movement around the solid blue beacons were millions of circling insects drawn to the display's beams, occasionally flying too close to the hot lights and catching fire, leaving small trails of smoke wafting from the tops of the cannons. The twin beacons could be seen for miles around, up to 60 miles on a clear day, and we spotted them from several locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. For the first time this year, Tribute in Light was powered entirely by biodiesel fuel, making the powerful light display not just a moving gesture but also a green one. Now the Municipal Arts Society who sponsors the annual light show is hoping to make it financially sustainable as well and has launched a fundraising campaign to establish an endowment. Donations can be made online or an instant $10 can be donated by texting TRIBUTE to 20222. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
For those who need an even bigger WTC fix, PBS's long-running science program NOVA has a detailed, hour-long program on the engineering of the site, including an in-depth look at the materials used on site, as well as lengthy interviews with the architects, engineers, and contractors working on the colossal project. Thanks to unparalleled access granted by the Port Authority, NOVA gathered footage for the episode over a five year period, so expect lots of dramatic time lapse video.
It's blockbuster good. Silverstein Properties has produced a video of The New World Trade Center that shows where we've been and where we'll be in coming years (provided the markets cooperate). With music swelling, this time machine has production values on par with Inception, and like that thriller it might leave you wondering which dream level we're on.
Perched on the rooftop of a parking garage in Lower Manhattan a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, two groups of 44 light cannons pointing skyward will soon project high-intensity beams of light into the night sky for Tribute in Light, marking the tenth anniversary of the 911 World Trade Center attacks. Last week, as a crew of 30 workers was positioning the lights and laying cable to a large generator on the sidewalk, we stopped by to learn more what's involved with the massive display. Presented every year by the Municipal Arts Society, the display will shoot skyward at dusk on Sunday, September 11 and run through the night. Tribute in Light was initially conceived by three independent groups of architects and designers who each had a similar idea at the same time. Lighting designer Paul Marantz helped the groups merge their ideas into one viable lighting display, finding common ground between the three designs. "Light cannons," spotlights about 18-inches in diameter supported in metal frames, are arranged in square rings representing the footprints of the Twin Towers and staggered for optimum light density. Michael Ahern who is producing the display said the staggered pattern gives depth to the 48 foot by 48 foot squares. Once powered up, each of the 7,000-watt xenon searchlights will merge to form a beam of light that shoots four miles into the sky and is visible for 60 miles around. Ahern said such high-intensity lighting displays are rare, but noted that iconic beam shooting from the top of The Luxor casino in Las Vegas also projects light skyward in a similar fashion. Before the lights can be turned on, technicians must align each cannon so the entire array points in exactly the same direction to avoid the scattering of light. Spotters are dispatched to New Jersey, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Uptown Manhattan to make sure the lights come together as a single beam. This labor-intensive process can take up to eight days. Once the switch is flipped, the display takes about five minutes to reach full intensity. Ahern said standing on the roof watching the lights is "beyond awesome...looking up , it really is genuinely amazing." He compared the experience to standing in a cathedral of light. The beams emit a slight blue hue, the same color as daylight, according to Ahern. With this many lights drawing so much electricity, Tribute in Light is not cheap. Combined with a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Municipal Arts Society has funded the $500,000 show out of its operating budget, but now that the grant money has run out, funding for future years is in jeopardy. The MAS is now seeking to establish an endowment and to find a permanent location to keep the lights running for years to come. The group has launched a fundraising campaign with a goal of several million dollars. Donations can be made directly to MAS at their web site or by calling 212.935.2075 or an immediate $10 donation can be made by texting the word TRIBUTE to 20222.