A crane towers over the foundations for the Freedom Tower April 25, 2007, in New York. In 2006, an agreement was hammered out that ended a months-long stalemate about how to divide power and money in the long-delayed rebuilding of the trade center site.
Editor’s Note – With the recent news that some of the final steel beams are being put into place at One World Trade Center, CEG takes a look back the earliest phases of its construction in this article from the May 16th, 2007 Northeast edition of Construction Equipment Guide.
NEW YORK (AP) A year ago, cranes at ground zero were idle. A cornerstone for the skyscraper that will replace the World Trade Center sat in the dirt, packed in plywood, and the entire project’s future was in doubt.
Today, 12 months after approval of a new development deal, the massive hole in lower Manhattan has become a buzzing construction site. Crews are hard at work building a transit hub and a 9/11 memorial and preparing the land for new office towers.
“The gratifying thing, of course, is the visual. And the visual now is really there,” said David Childs, architect of the Freedom Tower, the tallest of five skyscrapers being built to replace the twin towers. “The believability factor now is real.”
In early 2006, just a handful of workers were on the site, while the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey battled with trade center developer Larry Silverstein over the lease he signed weeks before the towers were destroyed.
Heavy equipment finally arrived a year ago after the two sides agreed to divide billions of dollars in insurance proceeds and bonds, and to share responsibility for the five towers.
The Port Authority took over the Freedom Tower and another skyscraper and said it would excavate land for Silverstein to build three other towers.
Now steel columns for the Freedom Tower peek above street level, and concrete has been poured for the tower’s foundation.
“We’ve unleashed the power of the builders, and look what happens,” said Anthony Shorris, executive director of the Port Authority.
The Freedom Tower, with a spire reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty’s torch, is seen as the symbolic replacement to the trade center.
But it has had several false starts. A cornerstone was first laid in 2004, then encased in plywood and taken off the site after the tower was moved and redesigned to protect it from terrorist attacks.
A year ago, the project “was nothing but a political statement,” Shorris said. “Now it’s about business.”
At Silverstein’s offices over ground zero, architects work together on one floor, watching a digital clock counting down the days until the next planning deadline. More detailed drawings were completed last month, including proposals for sleek fins to control the light in one tower and a huge, airy lobby with a video installation in another.
Janno Lieber, who heads the trade center project for Silverstein, said his team will be ready to build by January, when the Port Authority must deliver buildable land at ground zero or pay penalties of $300,000 a day.
The complete rebuilding of ground zero is still years away. The memorial and transit hub are to be finished in 2009, with the Freedom Tower opening in 2011. The other office buildings are to be done by 2013. One tower and a performing arts center are not yet designed.
At the busy site, workers are performing “the most elegant dance in construction” to get out of each other’s way and coordinate many projects in a small space, Shorris said.
Construction traffic has been diverted at times during a search for human remains. A staircase that is the last above-ground remnant of the old trade center stands surrounded by bulldozers and dirt piles while officials determine what to do with it.
Those problems will always be unique to the scene of the nation’s worst terrorist attack, Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said.
“We’re sensitive to that,” Coscia said. “It’s both unrealistic and inappropriate to ignore even for one day what happened at that site.”