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· User
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Interesting piece...



April 7, 2005 -- 'NIGHTMARE." "Mael strom." Such is how Downtown power players increasingly describe the status of Ground Zero.

While all eyes were turned to the fight over the West Side stadium, redevelopment at the far more vital World Trade Center site crawled to a virtual halt.

The Freedom Tower cornerstone-laying on July 4, the swift rise of 7 WTC and cheery speeches by Gov. Pataki gave the impression that the Port Authority, leaseholder Larry Silverstein and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. were charging ahead to fill the aching hole in the earth.

But it's time for the public — and Pataki — to wake up. The engine of Ground Zero renewal increasingly resembles a weary old steam locomotive grinding gears as it struggles to advance by inches.

PA Executive Director Kenneth Ringler yesterday told a Crain's breakfast forum that the iconic Freedom Tower was a mere two to three months behind schedule — a wildly optimistic take on a project that was supposed to "top off" its 1,776-foot tall steel framework by autumn 2006, but for which not an inch of steel has yet been ordered.

A "game of inches" is what the Times called the week-by-week minutiae of incremental planning. Executives involved at Ground Zero promote the view that the painstaking pace is necessary before an actual building can rise out of the tightly woven fabric of new towers, museum, performing arts center, memorial, new streets and below-ground infrastructure.

But in plain English, the job is taking too long. All parties have forgotten the spring 2003 warnings from business-community leaders — that Downtown would not survive as a viable business district if redevelopment took as long as it did at Times Square or Columbus Circle.

MORE than 31/2 years since 9/11, all the various projects for which designs have been approved and publicized appear bogged down to different degrees. The need to "start filling the damned hole" — as one very involved, very exasperated executive put it — has fallen subordinate to turf battles and bean-counting on all sides.

The PA and LMDC have yet to agree fully on which agency will pay for which portions of site infrastructure. No one has even been named to head up fund-raising for the memorial. Santiago Calatrava's $2 billion PATH terminal is said to be over-budget even before it's fully designed.

Uncertainties over a West Street tunnel proposal (languishing for months at the state Transportation Dept.) just scuttled Goldman Sachs' widely hailed plan for a new headquarters in Battery Park City. The collateral damage threatens Ground Zero itself, whose numerous infrastructure elements are inextricably linked with everything around it.

Most ominously, the iconic Freedom Tower, meant to reclaim the skyline, has yet to find the fast-forward button. Although Silverstein Properties, the PA and the LMDC say progress is being made, insiders alarmed by the glacial pace tell a different story.

Forecasts by Pataki, Silverstein and LMDC of steel actually rising above ground next year are "very much under threat," according to a person familiar with the situation.

Silverstein once hoped to top off the tower's steel framework on Sept. 11, 2006; it's hard to imagine how that might happen. As he has often said, up to two years of work are required on the foundation and infrastructure — the equivalent of a 400,000 square-foot building underground — before any steel can actually rise above street level.

IN fact, the project appears troubled at bottom and top. The arduous subterranean work has yet to start in earnest, thanks to debilitating battles between Silverstein and the PA over engineering, safety and cost issues.

And technical and financing challenges posed by the dramatic antenna spire seem no closer to being resolved than when the Times' David W. Dunlap first reported them in January.

Now, insiders privately doubt that the tower can be completed by its announced 2009 target (itself a quiet retreat from the 2008 date that Pataki promised two years ago).

At this rate, if history is any guide, the city's skyline will still have a void where the Twin Towers used to be, 10 years after the attack — and maybe 15.

Some minor progress has been made: Removal of the old parking garage is nearly complete. And building-trade sources say Silverstein is finally bidding out certain work on the Freedom Tower foundation.

But that's six months later than he'd hoped. And bidding on the rest of the underground infrastructure — utilities, garages, security features, insulation from PATH train lines, connections to pedestrian concourses — is still ahead.

OF all the executives involved, the only one who spoke for the re cord was Ringler, who offered the cheery assessments that the PATH station project is "right on track" and that he's "confident [Silverstein] will meet the 2009 date" for the Freedom Tower — although he cautioned, "some interim dates may not be met."

Off the record, many influential Downtown players blame the PA for having no "institutional momentum" to expedite Silverstein's progress. The authority already collects $120 million a year in rent from him. And the politicians to whom it answers — the governors of New Jersey and New York — now both seem to be lame ducks.

As a tenant of the PA, Silverstein needs its blessing just to drive a nail. But some say the agency is more consumed with internal turf wars, bureaucratic twiddling and rule-book nitpicking than with replacing the World Trade Center.

Others say Silverstein, too, is contributing to the logjam by pushing for the PA to defray the costs of the tower's large symbolic elements — the wind turbines devised by architect David Childs and the spire that's largely the work of master site-planner Daniel Libeskind. Ringler acknowledged only "ongoing positive discussions about cost allocations throughout the site."

PRACTICALLY everyone cites the supposedly unprecedented tech nical challenges of building on Ground Zero's northwest corner — close to the slurry wall and atop active rail lines. The tracks, in particular, are causing fits. Ringler claims that "deconstruction" of the old parking garage was "taking long because it's on top of the PATH tracks, and they must be able to do it without causing an implosion."

But it's not as if Silverstein never saw a set of rails before. He built Times Square's jumbo Embassy Suites Hotel atop a busy subway station. His contractor, Tishman Construction, built Morgan Stanley a new Seventh Avenue skyscraper above the same station.

And his architect, Childs, designed Bear Stearns' massive Madison Avenue headquarters atop a yard-full of busy Metro North tracks just north of Grand Central Terminal.

If anyone has an obligation to cut through this thicket, it's the governor: Pataki knew the PATH line was there when he insisted — over Silverstein's objection — that the tower go at the northwest corner, where Libeskind wanted it.

TWO years ago, Pataki threw his official weight into a firm time table for Ground Zero. He can't produce miracles, but he has enormous clout to get Silverstein, the PA and the LMDC to quit bickering so that real construction can begin.

Ground Zero gives him a shot at a real legacy. A new World Trade Center will be remembered more than any budget.

Pataki's choice is clear. He can leave office in January 2007 with the Freedom Tower's first shafts reaching for the sky — or with nothing to show in the 16-acre pit except a few commuter trains to Jersey and a rusted steel cross.

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· User
5,857 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
NY Daily News

WTC delay unavoidable, says Mayor

Mayor Bloomberg defended a short delay in constructing the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, saying yesterday security concerns must be the top priority.

"You don't want to rush," Bloomberg said. "I know everybody wants to see a shovel in the ground and steel going up, but it is more important to do it right, and sometimes that takes some real deliberative thought, and consulting as many experts as you can."

Earlier this week, the developer of the World Trade Center site said the design for the centerpiece tower had to be reworked after the NYPD raised new security concerns. The delay will be several months, officials said.

Originally published on April 28, 2005
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