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Building Freedom Tower

October 2006 Installment of the Monthly Journal 

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

By Dick Sheppard

Two Weeks Ending 10/20/06: A step forward, a step backwards?

More remains, more delays?

As the numbers of construction workers and equipment increases all across the WTC site, both within and outside the western "bathtub," news broke yesterday (10/19/06) that more human remains were found in an area just a bit south of the Vesey Stairs at the northern edge of the WTC site. Workers there are, I think, creating a temporary Vesey Street exit from the temporary PATH station in anticipation of preparing to build the permanent PATH station. Con Ed workers who were working around an old cable feeder uncovered wallets and body parts, necessitating participation of the PAPD, who was on site for the retrieval. Presently, from my vantage point, I can see the white tarp they've set up over the discovery area, just south of the Vesey Stairs. Jumpsuit clad workers, along with some PAPD staff, are investigating. 

NYC Skyline in October 2006

Word of this recovery has predictably enraged families, who just this morning released a statement of their dismay that after five years remains are still turning up. This may also cast the NYFD under a cloud, as they were responsible for the recovery, even at one point starting a riot and assaulting police to remain on the scene. Were they remiss? That's to be determined. But this new discovery might only hold up work at least in that area, if not across the site. This is still a developing affair.

As mentioned, there is plenty of activity across the site, even this morning at the Freedom Tower site, workers are present and equipment is moving. 

I'm still trying to find out the purpose of the large telescoping crane right at the Freedom Tower site, I can't see down into the very, very deep rock cuts to see if that crane is hoisting rebar down there in preparation of the foundation beams. 

I was across West Street yesterday (10/19) and was looking down into the foundation of the Goldman Sachs building, the foundation columns are in place, encased in a solid block of concrete, ready for the structure above to be bolted onto to them. I just visited skyscraperpage.com and the new Goldman building will be 742 feet tall, or a foot shorter than the building I'm presently writing from, One Liberty Plaza, 743 feet tall. 7 WTC is 750 feet tall. 

There were signs posted that blasting was going to occur at the Memorial site; I may have heard one blast earlier this week, but it doesn't seem like serious, continuous blasting. And there is work against the eastern border of the site along Church Street, the PA has to prepare this site for Larry Silverstein to build (more on this below). And the sidewalk in front of the Millennium Hotel, which was closed as work continues on both the Cortland Street subway station, and the Dey Street corridor, was finally opened, I'm sure the hotel staff and potential guests are pleased with that. You can look down into the open sidewalk of the east side of Church Street, it looks like an abandoned subway station. They need to get this work wrapped up. 

It's not a major hassle, but with all the traffic and pedestrian re-routing on Church, Dey, and Broadway it's curious how big pieces of equipment are working just feet away as pedestrians and vehicles scamper about their comings and goings. 

A billion here…a billion there…

Ever since 9/11/01, Larry Silverstein, who controlled the WTC site by virtue of his deal with the Port Authority just a few months before 9/11, has been battling with the WTC insurers about just how much they are liable for. Silverstein's contention was that two planes hitting the Towers constituted two attacks, and thus as the WTC was insured for $3.5 billion, Silverstein should get $7 billion. There's no need to attempt to fathom the legal issues, suffice to say, right after 9/11, when I realized that many people were going to turn this event into a personal self-enrichment plan, I was against Larry. But despite many who have turned 9/11 into a windfall, Larry has always tried to do what a normal businessman might be expected to do. Above all, he wanted to rebuild. This eventually changed my opinion about him from sorta negative to outright positive.

The tentative agreement reached in April, 2006, along with the "permanent" agreement signed just after the five-year anniversary of 9/11/01 always seemed subject to change, and it was mainly because when Larry and the Port Authority divvied up site prep, rebuilding, and ownership issues, the insurers were looking for an excuse not to pay what they owed, even the lesser of the $3.5 billion vs. $7 billion. So the bad guys in this, in addition to Pataki and Bloomberg, have been the insurance companies, who, I suppose you could say, are acting like businessmen in their own interests, and trying to pay as little as possible. So it went to court, and the original jury trial found that Larry could recover $4.6 billion; not his $ 7 billion, but more than the $3.5 billion which was the ostensible insured amount. 

The insurance companies appealed, and on Wednesday (10/18/06) the federal appeals court upheld the $4.6 billion dollar award. For those anxious to see building soaring above the WTC site, great news, that extra $1.1 billion practically pays for one of the buildings slated to be built. So steel is on the way; I expect perhaps a more rigorous assertion of the who-builds-what, who-owns-what agreement between the PA and Larry Silverstein. So that the rebuilding can continue, with due respect to the sporadic recoveries, and to the delight of skyline lovers everywhere.

Two Weeks Ending 10/6/06

One Steel Icon Leaves the Site - Freedom Tower Steel on the Way

There were some interesting on-site visual developments at Freedom Tower, and also some "off-site" developments. I had noticed some media at the east WTC fence-line along Church Street on my way into work early Thursday (10/5) morning. I was too blasé to walk over and find out their story. But as I was returning from my lunch-time walk yesterday, coming east on Liberty Street along the north side of the pataki-bloomberg building, there was some activity at the south-east police-guarded WTC site entrance. Again, media, and a gathering, not too large. Usually I mope around for these things, at least for a few seconds, but I thought maybe a celebrity was visiting or some public official, so I walked across Church and back to my office. 

Turns out, the large iconic Cross formed from beams of the 6 WTC building, which stood at the WTC site since being uncovered shortly after 9/11, was being moved off-site to facilitate the construction that is supposed to start on the east edge of the WTC site. The beam Cross, a relic of the structure itself and the symbol of recovery, was taken a few blocks north to St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, on the southeast corner of Church and Barclay Streets. St. Peter's is New York's oldest Catholic parish. 

I just got back from visiting the new location for the iconic WTC Cross, it has not exactly been given a place of airy granduer. That is to say, the Cross is hard up against St. Peter's western exterior wall, right on Church Street. It is squeezed into a space between the wall and a short fence, it looks crowded in. Whereas at the WTC site, the cross stood alone on a tall concrete pedestal (still there, though the Cross isn't) and was therefore much more prominent. No one disputes the Cross needs to move for constructions, and it's good it found a home until it will be returned to the permanent Memorial, but the confined space lessens the impact. On the upside it's much more accessible to the public. You can practically touch it, though given a world with vandals, maybe not the most desirable access. 

My last update sounded a pessimistic note, the "final" building agreements were completed (I just can't shake the feeling that they're not really done) but there was still some bickering between Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority. But work is continuing, which is all that matters, really. At the Freedom Tower corner, a large telescopic crane is on-site but it's difficult to see what it's moving. Certainly, the Freedom Tower foundation gets ever deeper, it's 20-30 feet down into the Manhattan schist in some places - very deep. There's lots of rebar materials around, I am speculating the crane is hauling this, and I'm trying to see if it's putting rebar into the foundation but can't see down there well enough. Putting the rebar into the foundation is a big milestone I hope to be able to pinpoint. 

More optimism is news that Freedom Tower steel, and specifically the first steel columns that will be fitted into those deep schist cuts, has arrived in the U.S. from Belgium. I don't want to get into "why Belgium" suffice to say that's where the steel was milled. It arrived in Camden, New Jersey, and Baltimore, Maryland, and is being "finished" in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is supposed to arrive at the Freedom Tower site at the end of this year, I'll try to pinpoint that welcome milestone. And get some pictures too.

On the Memorial sector, there's been some crushed stone spread in the WTC south tower footprint and excavators and drilling rigs are busy, with some minor visible progress. The crushed stone at least hides the water that constantly accumulates following rain. There is drilling and excavating all around the perimeters and in some cases inside the WTC footprints, mostly in the South Tower footprint, since the North Tower footprint is closer to the Freedom Tower activity and is comparatively undisturbed. Plus the bottom of the long access ramp into the entire bathtub ends right nearly in the center of the North Tower footprint, so for now, not much happens on that site.

Other good news is that the Pataki-bloomberg building is closer to coming down, some reports said that it will be down by September '07. Since not one single piece of the external steel of the building has been removed, that timetable seems like a "tall" order. There has been no work on or with the Pataki-bloomberg crane since they finished topping it out two weeks ago. There was an accident last week with a similar tower crane of lesser height at a residential construction site in Greenwich Village. One of the crane sections which are hoisted into place and comprise the tower, fell lose. A 4-ton hunk of iron/steel that smashed into the middle of the street; some injuries, none major, no deaths. Which is quite a near-miss. The Pataki-bloomberg crane for now, is idle and looks secure.

One final note of positive news is that Larry Silverstein hinted that more space is being rented at 7WTC. Which I, with not a stake in the building or Larry, or anything else, always welcome as good news. Especially to be able to say to all the negative nabobs who thought no one would ever rent space near/at the WTC: that it is too scary, bad memories, all the psyhco-mumbo-jumbo to prevent any buildings from being built and occupied: TOLD YOU SO. Go Larry, at 7WTC, and wherever your rebuilding writ holds sway at the WTC site. 


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