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 Building Freedom Tower -- The Journal 

Paperbacknovel contributor Dick Sheppard, who works in an office directly overlooking the World Trade Center site, hopes to track progress of the ascent of Freedom Tower, which at 1776 feet will be [more]

For previous journals, see bottom of this page.

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Building Freedom Tower

July 2007 Installment of the Monthly Journal 

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

By Dick Sheppard

Period ending 7/31/07 

Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower site itself isn’t changing noticeably as the weeks pass. It’s an intentional, if “unofficial” slowdown on the iconic building, because Freedom Tower is being worked on along with everything else in the sprawling 16-acre World Trade Center zone. Visible work on Freedom Tower remains a longed-for sight, but across the entire WTC site, crews on various sections are working furiously. There’s especially visible evidence that the bedrock/foundation work is getting done. The lowest levels of what will rise above are taking shape as you enter the western “bathtub” on the PATH train. Rebar-reinforced walls are emplaced down into the Manhattan Schist bedrock and begin to define what the lower levels of the finished WTC complex will look like. As with the original World Trade Center, the public will not see these understructures, so watching them being built exhibits how complicated the entire WTC rebuild is.

The twin Freedom Tower cranes swing to-n-fro, lifting and moving equipment, and you can see some minor changes at the Freedom Tower site. Mainly, though, the original six Freedom Tower columns emplaced last December are the only sure sign that at some point a building will arise. All around Freedom Tower – especially in the Memorial quadrant where the PATH train enters, crews are very busy from generally 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., jack-hammering trenches and emplacing rebar walls into the bedrock. Also directly south of the Freedom Tower site, there is work being done on the understructure for Fulton Street, which at street level will run just south of Freedom Tower. 

Final “Temp” PATH station

Directly east of the Freedom Tower site, the “final” temporary PATH access station takes shape. Once complete, PATH commuters will enter and exit this temp PATH station on the south side of Vesey Street, just a little west of West Broadway. Commuters will pour out across Vesey Street from7 World Trade Center. (Which, according to a column this week by the Post’s Steve Cuozzo, is now 72% leased.) As this PATH station is taking shape, the first temp station to reopen post-9/11 is being demolished and the only visible evidence it existed is one of the tall columns/masts that supported that station’s overhang. The new PATH access just south of the demolished station doesn’t have an overhang. When it rained heavily a few weeks back, there was plenty of water on the stairs and sidewalk. The crews have an excellent drainage system inside the “bathtub” itself, so it’ll be notable if they leave the present PATH access vulnerable to flooding. Or, just let it ride until the Vesey access is open. 

Overhead view of steel PATH Structure.


PATH Station steel from Vesey.

The “Eastern Bathtub” Slurry Wall

By far the busiest activity is taking place along Vesey Street and Church east of the arising PATH access. Here crews are emplacing the rebar cages that will support the “slurry” wall that will line the “eastern bathtub.” This activity is going like blazes, it looks like they are averaging one rebar emplacement a day. Considering that each rebar cage is constructed on-site, and the trenches have to be dug and carefully readied for the rebar, is remarkable. Especially at the Tower 2 site in the area west of Church along Vesey, crews always seem to be inserting another rebar section. The Port Authority is responsible for building the wall and turning over the site when it’s done to Larry Silverstein so he can build the three Church Street towers therein. There was mention of a July 1 deadline, they’re evidently behind. As of now, you can tell they are really trying to make up if they’ve blown that deadline.

Also notable are the “Vesey Stairs” the final surviving remnant of the original WTC. They look forlorn, they lose some of their definition as “stairs” each day. Crews have wrapped caution tape around them, but the large crane used to assemble the Vesey PATH access steel worked very close alongside the Vesey Stairs. The slurry-wall-crews were also right alongside on the other side. The stairs are supposed to be moved the a location across West Street in Battery Park City, costing something like $2-3 million dollars to relocate. The desire to save this remnant is understandable if controversial. But the longer this relic remains amidst the very busy construction zone along Vesey, the more “banged-up” they get even though they’re segregated from the work areas. If they’re not moved soon, it may not be worth moving what’s left of them.

Building Demolitions at Fulton Transit Hub site

Here too, as in the very active spaces at the WTC, the building demolitions on the east side of Broadway at and south of Fulton are going gangbusters. The 11-story 198-200 Broadway building is down to maybe 5-6 stories. Once they had the scaffolding set up and a crane on-site, this building is coming down dramatically over the past three-four weeks. It’s the “flying dumpster” routine, nothing fancy. The crane lifts a 40-yard dumpster up to the roof, and the guys up there load it with busted up building. On the ground, a backhoe sorts the debris and loads it onto trailer dumpsters. The buildings at the corner of Broadway and Fulton are now long gone, and the small uptown Fulton Street station access on the south side of Fulton remained open as the building came down around it. The building sandwiched between the “Corbin Building” (northeast corner of John & Broadway) and the fast disappearing 198-200 Broadway building, a 3-4 story structure once housing a Houlihans, is gutted and ready for vanishing. 

View South on Broadway towards Fulton Hub Site.

A few more weeks, and the entire stretch of Broadway from south of Fulton to the Corbin Building will be an empty lot, ready for the Fulton Transit Hub to arise. This Hub will access thirteen subway lines, plus, using the under-Dey-Street passage, the PATH system. Such a concentration of commuters also calls for numerous retail opportunities as well. Altogether a massive redefinition of pedestrian, shopping, and commuting patterns with ripples from the Battery south northward to probably Chambers Street and beyond.

Covering Cortlandt Street - Opening Cortlandt Street

The under street work at Cortlandt and Broadway, which had closed Cortlandt Street from Broadway to Church Street, and caused pedestrian jams at that intersection, is complete. The huge under street construction site right at the corner of Broadway and Cortlandt is closed over, as if it never happened. Cortlandt from Broadway to Church is re-opened to vehicular traffic, causing many people to dodge vehicles after being used to crossing the untrafficed Cortlandt for several months. Crews are re-tiling the west side of Broadway’s sidewalk outside One Liberty Plaza. It hasn’t been clear how this particular project fits into the overall puzzle of the work on the surrounding blocks, and it may remain unknown until they actually open the new access, located at the base of One Liberty Plaza’s northeast corner. 

Covered up Cortland and Broadway.

Delay on “Cortlandt Street” Station along Church

Just as Corltandt Street between Broadway and Church reopens, Church Street from about Dey Street to Barclay Street is being ripped open. Beneath Church Street is the N/R train Cortlandt Street station, still closed nearly six years now since 9/11. It was supposed to re-open at some point, but remains now closed indefinitely as some under-street work is being done either to the station, or just above it. So Church Street from Liberty to Barclay is reduced to two lanes of traffic and various pedestrian passages.

Deutsche Bank Demolition

Progress on the Deutsche Bank building demolition was in fits and starts until the past few weeks, and very noticeable progress is underway. Nearly the top 4-5 floors of the building are gone, it is now at the same level as the office in which I work. Once a few more floors are gone, the view from our offices will include a stretch of Jersey City’s Liberty State Park previously hidden by the Deutsche Building. The scaffold guys on the Deutsche Building do some amazingly nerve-wracking clambering around on their scaffolds, removing floor sections willy-nilly, you’d think someone might not be paying attention and fall through. They hang off the outer edge of the scaffold with nonchalance that is surely the result of being used to such acrobatics at such lofty heights. 

View of Shortening Tower, at Eye Level.


Fulton Street itself from about Broadway east to Water Street will remain a major construction zone for at least the next two, two-and-a-half-years. New York City is about to replace the 150-year-old under street water main. There’s some controversy surrounding the upcoming sixth-year commemoration of 9/11/01. City officials, in deference to the full-steam-ahead construction pace on the WTC site, are holding the commemoration diagonally across from the southeast corner of the WTC site, in “Zucotti Park” which is the public plaza portion of One Liberty Plaza. The “WTC Families” perhaps as expected, aren’t happy with the off-WTC-site commemoration.