On the Town   


Building Freedom Tower

July 2006 Installment of the Monthly Journal 

[Read the sidebar, Building Freedom Tower -- The Journal for introduction]

By Dick Sheppard

Two-Weeks ending 7/28/06: A lot of activity as the end of July 2006 approaches. The humidity wave which has kept things pretty uncomfortable in NYC continues, and with that moisture comes Thunderstorms. We're about to get one as I sit here on the 29th floor across from the WTC, and that means there will be water accumulating on the site. Last Friday 7/21/06 there were some very drenching downpours and water filled some of the very very deep excavations that have been made on the Freedom Tower footprint. On Monday, the water was still evident, and the week of 7/24 until today was dry, but right as this is being written rain is imminent. 

The view from the "north pedestrian bridge" which runs west about West Broadway down Vesey St., and up some stairs and across West Street into the WFC looks directly down into the Freedom Tower quadrant. However, while the decorative metal screening on the bridge exterior obstructs the view, you can see just how deep the excavations have been on that site. Moreover, in addition to the first slit-type trench that was dug at the south border of the Freedom Tower footprint, a new trench is being dug just north alongside. Very deep trenches, down into the Manhattan Schist.

I heard my first blast the other day, just a large rumble from the site. The trenches are being dug using pneumatic excavators, I surmise the trenches demand a bit more precision than just booming away as in some of the wider excavations.

There's been a very very large telescopic-type crane onsite at the "pataki-bloomberg" building, the old Bankers Trust/Deutsch Bank building. I walked over there yesterday, they had already assembled the lower tower base for what looks to be a tower crane which will be used to disassemble the P-B building. Today, the telescopic crane lifted the gigantic crane boom and workers attached it to the tower cab. A very delicate and well-executed show. The crane sits on the Northeast corner of the building, and they'll probably jack it up beginning next week. The boom is huge, very long, but I wonder if that single crane will reach across to the southwest corner. There's still been some discussions of human remains throughout or atop the P-B building, I'm not sure if the "assembly of the disassembly" crane indicates that these issues have been resolved. I guess if it starts getting jacked up to the roofline, things are moving in the right direction over there.

My pal columnist Deroy Murdock, who was advocating a rebuild of the WTC Twin Towers, had emailed me about how things looked. I told him, "pretty encouraging." The fifth year since 9/11 approaches very fast, and some critical negotiations about the entire WTC site must be resolved.

To end on a positive note, my man Larry Silverstein told the CEO of Beijing Vantone, the first announced WTC tenant, hadn't met his deadline to finalize the deal. And that could well be because with midtown rents starting to rise and space getting scarce, suddenly 7WTC offers some advantages. Larry figures he's in a stronger position and doesn't have to wait for anyone. Case in point, the company which published Inc. and Fast Company magazines are looking to relocate from Lexington Aveunue uptown, into 7WTC. About 150 workers all told.

Two-Weeks ending 7/14/06: Striking crane operators and accompanying operating engineers struck across the city during the week ended 7/7/06, so there was NO activity at the World Trade Center site or the Freedom Tower footprint from 7/3, over the Fourth of July; until week end 7/7/06.

Work resumed at an encouraging clip beginning on Monday 7/10/06 across the entire site, with plenty of activity from all manners of equipment and more workers on-site than previously. Even as I write this from 29 stories above the site and through the office windows and outside the window office, I can hear the continuous clatter of the pneumatic excavators punching into the bedrock to set footings. There hasn't been much news about or evidence of blasting, although occasionally there will be a significant pile of the mattress-like blast suppressors, which likely means that some blasting continues.

NYC and the metro region has been experiencing not so much wet weather, but sporadic bursts of very very heavy downpours. This has the effect of filling the WTC site "bathtub", the slurry wall which was built to keep water out of the site, but is equally good at keeping water inside the site. There's usually standing water across the site, moreso on the memorial sections than the Freedom Tower quadrant. But after some serious downpours last week when no work took place, several of the deeper holes on the Freedom Tower site were filled with water. Just another obstacle to contend with. Even now there are pumps in operation across the site, and standing water in many places.

There was some media mention of a poll taken among downtown residents about their opinion of the overall WTC plan, and for the most part it wasn't too positive. It's also meaningless, because who cares what the residents think? It's not their site, it's not their money being spent to develop it, and if they don't like it, MOVE. One gets the suspicion that these polls are sponsored by the many opponents of the entire WTC rebuild, including competing real estate interests. Besides, working among these residents gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of people they are, and you get the impression most of them are spoiled, whiny, and selfish. So screw 'em, let the building continue.

Of note off the WTC site, Larry Silverstein pulled the plug on a potential lessee for 7WTC, a Chinese company that was dragging their feet on finalizing the deal. So to Mayor Bloomberg, who was trying to dictate what prices Larry should charge, and who said he would have trouble leasing at 7WTC, flooey on yooey. You think Larry is worried about leasing at 7WTC if he would play hardball like that? Besides, a few other tenants are showing interest, and there was news this week midtown market is tightening, so things are moving in Larry's direction. Mayor Bloomberg, about whom there were a few, "will he run for president" stories these past few weeks, is a shoe-lift wearing twirp who wants to tell everyone else how to behave and live. As such, he is very much like those whining lower Manhattan residents mentioned earlier. Like his stalling compadre Governor George Pataki, Bloomberg will never be president. However, given the dynamics of the upcoming 2008 election, he could very well run as an independent with wildly unpredictable consequences. Bloomberg has more than enough ego, and money to try this. 

Also of note, while no work took place on the site during the week of 7/3/06, beginning on Friday 7/7/06, workers began moving the tribute panels that adorned the fence-line along Church Street. Here, many would gather to pay respects and learn more about what happened that day, and the sad death toll, as some panels contained the names of the those killed. Comes news that the panels had to be moved, because the sidewalk along Church Street is going to be closed, and pedestrian traffic re-routed onto Church Street behind barricades. This will allow construction to begin on the eastern-side "slurry wall" in preparation for Memorial construction and eventually, the Church Street towers. I thought I caught Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff going into the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center offices this morning (7/14) at 8am. Looked like it might be him, only caught a glimpse.

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