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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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Sept. 11, 2006 and Tribute in Lights

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Building Freedom Tower

December 2007 Installment of the Monthly Journal 

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

By Dick Sheppard

December 10, 2007 

The Race for Tower 3 & 4 Foundations

Undoubtedly the present critical activity taking place in rebuilding Lower Manhattan is the Port Authority of New York and New Jerseyís race to complete the foundation preparation at the WTC Tower 3 & 4 site, starting right at Church and Liberty Streets and running north along Church. Developer Larry Silverstein has already hired the foundation contractor, Yonkers Contracting, and on January 1, 2008, he is expecting Yonkers to start foundation work for towers 3 & 4. If they unable to because the Port Authority hasnít completed its work, Silverstein is eligible to collect $3 million dollars in penalties each day that Yonkers canít start. (A few recent news articles have painted Yonkers in an unflattering light vis-ŗ-vis some reputed organized crime connections. In New York City construction? No way! )

Tower 3 and 4 Foundation and Street Above

To an amateurís eye, the area in question, at the very southeast corner of the WTC site, looks nearly ready for building. The bathtub walls, installed months ago, are visible as earth has been removed and foundation piles installed further inside that quadrant. Workers have reached the very bottom of the siteís ďfloor,Ē the bedrock. There are still two solid work-weeks ahead, three really because with a $3 million dollar daily penalty, there wonít be any slowing during the Christmas/New Yearís week. There are two ten-hour shifts each day and even when Iíve passed through the site on weekend evenings, there are workers on site.

As someone who wants to see building steel rising above the street grade, not just the foundation steel within the site, the faster things happen, the better. These kinds of contracts promising bonuses for early completion, and penalties for delays, in this latter instance look like itís having an intended effect. Silverstein did a creditable job getting 7 World Trade Center built quickly, and he must be anxious to see his remaining WTC building responsibilities surging towards completion. Larry is not a young man, heís elderly, and I pray and root he will see the entire WTC rebuilt in his days.

Pedestrian traffic along Church Street from Liberty Street north to Vesey Street is constrained by barricades. It gets crowded during rush hours and there are only a few places to cross Church Street, so pedestrian traffic often ďbacks upĒ as crowds gather to wait the light changing. There are not street lights and in the evenings, the whole stretch of road is comparatively dark, which presents safety hazards. Right at Cortlandt Street and Church Street, two construction flagmen act as crossing guards of a sort.

Elsewhere at WTC

With all of the activity at the Tower 3 & 4 quadrant, activity elsewhere at WTC continues, though without the same striking visual change taking place where big penalty money is at stake. The least activity occurs at the Memorial quadrant, where that foundation has been anchored into the bedrock with steel and reinforced concrete, and backfilled. There is little visual evidence that the foundation exists, save for the outlines on the flat, unbuilt, ground. This is the area generally under the long, sloping access ramp which descends from south side of the WTC sight northwards into the old North WTC Tower One footprint.

Through the Church Street fence -- East bathtub.

At Freedom Tower

There are gradual visual changes within the Freedom Tower footprint, though no new steel. The overall WTC site plan has adapted to new realities: Freedom Tower was going to be the first tower constructed, then roughly in order, Towers 2,3,4. That changed as the Freedom Tower designed evolved, and the other tower designs were finalized. There was going to be a hold on Freedom Tower, and Tower 2 would be the first built. Now, to demonstrate the commercial viability of rebuilding the entire WTC site, Towers 3 & 4 will rise and presumably attract tenants, creating the buzz and critical mass that will draw further interest in the massive Freedom Tower and Tower 2. Though they are not lifting structural steel into place, the two Freedom Tower cranes are nonetheless busy creating the center core foundation infrastructure for Freedom Tower. Some of that work takes place down inside the PATH tunnels which snake around the north and northwest portion of the Freedom Tower site. In addition, the Fulton Street understructure just alongside the south side of Freedom Tower has nearly reached street level. The wall for that understructure dominates the Freedom Tower site.

A view into Freedom Tower foundation from Vesey-West St overstreet pedestrian bridge.

If the Goldman Sachs building going up diagonally across West Street from Freedom Tower is a guide, once the foundations are in place at 3 & 4, the steel will rise quickly. But then again, at one point, Goldman had 4 cranes operating, which is a tremendously costly effort. The Goldman steel isnít topped out yet, but the lower floors are being enclosed, and by this time next year, it seems that building will be fairly finished. Looking at the Goldman building from the east, itís a rather ordinary looking building, but from the south and west, you can see a sweeping faÁade facing the river side of the building thatís very dramatic.

A view into Freedom Tower foundation wall across back of site is Fulton Street understructure.



Twin Freedom Tower cranes at work.

Close up of Fulton Street understructure wall just south Freedom Tower footprint.


Dey Street

At various times and places, construction crews remove the concrete slabs that cover the Dey Street underground pedestrian passageway. Most of the work is being done under these concrete slabs, and sometimes you can see between the cracks of the slabs and see a lighted area underneath, being dug out and finished into a passageway.

It has to be pretty deep, because in order to access the northbound 4-5 train lines which run under Broadway, pedestrians will have to go under those tracks, so that requires a very deep passage. I think thatís the plan, I donít think there is enough space between the top of the subway lines and the street to have pedestrians access the northbound lines by going over the top. This passageway should be completed during 2008.

Fulton Transit Hub

Unfortunately, I donít have a birdís eye view of the Hub as I do for the WTC site, but I would surmise that they are digging a deep foundation at present, which will link all of the surrounding subways and link to the Dey Street passage coming east from Church Street and the WTC.

Miscellaneous Downtown

Still no activity on the Deutsch Bank demo, you can in your mindís eye image that had they continued working these three months since the fire, I would be looking a long way down onto the disappearing building. As it is, Iíd bet itís not going to be gone much before the end of 2008, if they donít start soon. It looks as if the only work done on the building since the fire is that they replaced the empty windows, which were previously enclosed with plywood, they are now enclosed with corrugated metal.

Just west of Deutsche, the 90 West Street building, a Cass Gilbert-designed beauty, suffered a basement sewage flood causing all of the residents to evacuate.

There is still a lot of understreet work at Fulton and Broadway, infrastructure work that extends east down the entire length of Fulton. This creates yet more pedestrian constraints, a problem that the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center admits will get much worse in 2008 before improving (maybe?) in 2009. I would think getting the Dey Street passage done would help a little along Church Street.

     East side of Church Street outside Century 21 dept store.

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