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Building Freedom Tower

December 2006 Installment of the Monthly Journal 

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

By Dick Sheppard

"Digging to Build -- Four Weeks Ending 12/15/06

During these past four weeks, the entire WTC construction site is alive with activity as never previously. Coming into the bathtub each morning aboard the PATH train, usually at just around 7am, is to enter directly into the activity hubbub. Crews are already at work that early - an encouraging and welcome sign for those who yearn for visible proof that there will be a new "World Trade Center." If not called that directly, at least a complex worthy of the original Towers, plaza, and outbuildings.

That these structures - the Freedom Tower and Church Street Towers and Memorial - will now arise there is no doubt. Though the agreements in place may have seemed temporary, they've evidently been worthy enough to support the hectic pace now underway. Even as I write from twenty-nine stories above the wide open WTC site, there is the continuous clanging of pneumatic backhoes breaking down into the schisty bedrock. For the main activity across the entire site - apart from the rebar sprouting on the Freedom Tower footprint - is hole digging. 

Site on December 20, 2006

On Freedom Tower site, cement trucks come and go, and the cagey rebar comes forth, and the steel beams are set to arrive. Last weekend, George Pataki, who I think is governor of New York still, was in Lynchburg, Virginia to sign some symbolic I-beams which are set to arrive at Freedom Tower imminently. Some of these beams were painted white to allow the dignitaries a chance to sign them and generally be onboard for the historic occasion of erecting that first beam. No word yet on exactly when these ceremonial beams, and the scores of other massive specially-reinforced beams will arrive. These first beams will be installed at the very base of Freedom Tower, anchoring it deep down into the bedrock.

Also at Freedom Tower, a tall tractor-driven crane has arrived, and I just noticed that the smaller telescoping crane which had been on site to set the rebar in place, having done that job, is no longer present. The larger crane is likely to accommodate the heavy reinforced steel beams due to arrive. It's a mighty tall crane; it sits on the bathtub floor, which is approximately 65 feet below street grade. So that's 65 feet to the top of the bathtub, and the large red tractor crane soars at least another 60-70 feet beyond street level. The crane is 150 feet tall, at least. And it sits within the rebar delineations on which Fulton Street will ultimately run, so in effect it this massive crane rides "on Fulton Street." 

Parallel to the westernmost PATH track, a reinforced concrete retaining wall was built, but at either end of this wall backhoes continue to drill so deeply into the rock that the equipment itself is nearly below the bathtub floor. 

You can look deep into the rock from the first PATH mezzanine level, and see a backhoe down in the trench, the arm of the drill dipped deeply into the rock pounding away. This looks as if it will be part of the finished Memorial, which won't be a tall structure, but they're digging deep there.

As I was walking around the site early one morning a few weeks back, just as I arrived at the southeast corner at Liberty/Church, a flatbed trailer was delivering a large piece of equipment, on which was stenciled some words which included, "slurry." This is part of what appears to be a "mini" slurry or cement mixing factory that has been built adjoining the second level of the PATH station, likely in accommodation of the bathtub extension for the Church Street towers. Just this morning, 12/15/06, there was a flatbed truck parked on Church Street which had hundreds of bags of sand and cement strapped aboard, ready for delivery into the site. 

A line of trailer containers sits next to the mini-mixer setup, I surmise they are filled with these bags or the loose contents, which are fed to the mini-plant, to be poured into the trenches that will form the bathtub.  

Already I've seen a few deep trenches dug directly in front of the Ladder 10 firehouse, just inside the southernmost part of the WTC site, and filled completely with concrete. I wonder if the builders of the original WTC had the same sense I do now as I watch this incredible strength being built into the already solid bedrock: we're building something forever. And who could know?

Also at the southeast corner where the bathtub building is underway, there is a companion tractor-driven crane to the one at Freedom Tower, diagonally cross-corners, two tall red cranes, ready to build soaring buildings in the coming months and years. 

The World's Tallest Weather-vane

Approval had been granted to start dismantling the outer windows and fašade at the very top of the Deutsche Bank building which sits south and just outside the WTC site. 

This building, which I've dubbed the "pataki-bloomberg" building because of the delays these politicians effected in demising this doomed structure, is now slated to vanish by year-end 2007. The tower crane which overtops the building has been idle while the finishing touches for an "environmentally acceptable" demolition plan were hammered out. Given the approval to begin the upper fašade removal, some progress has been made. Yet the unoccupied crane itself has not been still. The crane arm is set at about 45 degrees, pointing upwards. The crane base sitting atop the tower is not locked in place, and can therefore rotate as the prevailing winds push on the arm. There's an American flag perched on the corner of the building alongside the crane, and as it flutters, so the crane points, the world's tallest weather-crane. 

World's Largest Weather-Vane -- Crane afixed to the "Pataki-Bloomberg" Building, aka Duetsch Bank Building

Postscript: As I write this on Friday, December 13, 2006, a heavy, heavy fog obscures my view down onto the site. Yet far below I can see seven cement mixer trucks lined up and delivering their payloads into the Freedom Tower foundation. Industry, progress, rebuilding, construction, progress, industry, in service of the soon-to-soar behemoth still in it's groundling infancy.

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