The 40-story Banker's Trust Building still has a 15-story gouge on its north face. The 15-story Fiterman Hall of the Borough of Manhattan Community College has a corner sliced off. The 26-story 90 West Street, a New York City landmark, has at least $70 million in fire and other damage.

These and several smaller buildings are the ghost buildings of Ground Zero. Having sustained collateral damage on Sept. 11, they remain gashed, slashed, gouged, contaminated and otherwise compromised. And they stand in stark contrast to their repaired neighbors.

Frozen in time, these haunted sideliners, stabilized and either mothballed or simply wrapped to contain debris, are the only concrete reminders of the destruction wreaked by terrorists. What was once the World Trade Center is just an open pit–benign to behold compared to the jarring sight of the nearby buildings.

The structures' fates are shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty. Owners say little or won't talk at all, and have muzzled their design and construction teams, even with respect to a building's current condition.

Some do talk on condition of anonymity. Invariably, the words "insurance," "claims" and "disputes" come up. Owners want one thing. Insurers want another. Negotiations stretch out for months and months.

For Fiterman Hall, which was six weeks from the end of a five-year renovation, the issue apparently is whether the insurer for the $65-million project is responsible for damage caused by the collapse of Seven WTC. The owner says it is. The insurer says it isn't.

Beyond insurance quagmires, wild cards abound. One big one is the still-unshaped redevelopment plan for Ground Zero, which is likely to spill outside the 16-acre WTC site. Sources suggest the state's Lower Manhattan Development Corp. may take over some of the vacant buildings through powers of eminent domain. LMDC did not return phone calls.

Deutschebank, the owner of the more than 1-million-sq-ft Banker's Trust Building, also did not return phone calls but sources say it is trying to have the building declared unfit. Structural damage is considered severe. Steel from Two WTC, the 110-story south tower, knocked out one mid-face column line for some 15 stories and badly damaged another. That brought down 15 floors for one, two or three bays.

Though the nearly 30-year-old building did not succumb structurally, the giant open wound was a welcome mat for contaminants–asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury possibly among them. Mold has reportedly proliferated.

According to sources, the real issue at Banker's Trust is not the contamination but its extent. The dust apparently infiltrated everywhere and everything, including ductwork. A gut rehab might be the only way to ensure an environmentally sound cleanup. But the owner wants the building taken down so it can start from scratch, say sources.

At 90 West Street, a steel-framed building with terra cotta floors and terra cotta and brick exterior walls that was still on fire on Sept. 13, the structural consultant is preparing construction documents for the repair of a sidewalk vault on the Ground Zero-facing side.

Though structurally sound thanks to terra cotta fireproofing, some 20 of the office building's 26 stories are damaged "beyond belief," says Donald Friedman, director of preservation for LZA Technology, a division of the Thornton-Tomasetti Group, New York City.

LZA is providing full architectural and engineering services for the restoration of the city landmark, says Friedman. But the work is "on hold," he adds, pending resolution of insurance claims. Click here to view diagram

The owner, FTP 90 West, and its insurer have agreed to $70 million worth of repairs. But there is a gray area of disagreement. Based on experience with terra cotta facades, there is "probably" more damage than meets the eye, says Friedman. The insurer won't accept that without seeing it.

Coincidentally, the building was undergoing a facade restoration, which on Sept. 11 was 75% complete. So there are outstanding facade violations.

With some 40-odd leases broken, the building also has no tenants and therefore no income. The owner also wants to make some improvements, for which the insurer does not want to pay.

So the building remains "pseudo- mothballed," says Friedman. It was heated through the winter and there is little mold, he reports.

Fiterman Hall is weathertight, with little mold. There is no decision about whether the building will be "rehabbed, razed or whether the state is going to exercise powers of eminent domain for the expansion of Ground Zero," says Claudia Hutton, press officer for the owner, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, Albany. She adds that there is no time frame for the decision.

The renovation of the 1959 steel-framed building, done while the building was in use, included asbestos removal, installation of new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and wiring for 60 "smart" classrooms.

Flying arrows of steel from the adjacent Seven WTC amputated a 10-story section of the building, 30 ft wide and some 15 to 20 ft deep. Additionally, shock waves from 7 WTC's collapse broke windows.

There are several noteworthy exceptions to the ghost building syndrome at Ground Zero, in addition to the Winter Garden repair at the World Financial Center (see p. 8). Owner Brookfield Properties reopened One Liberty Plaza and Four WFC, which sustained nonstructural damage, last October. Close on the heels of those comebacks, Brookfield reopened One WFC in November and Two WFC in January. American Express reopened Three WFC, which had sustained structural damage along one corner, in April.

Several blocks away and across the street from Fiterman Hall, The Bank of New York also wasted no time marshaling forces for the repair and renovation of its 305-ft-tall building, which sustained major curtain wall and other cosmetic damage. The work began on Sept. 18 and will be complete in the next week or so, according to the construction manager, Tishman Construction Corp., New York City.

The renovation included the installation of 1,642 replacement-glass facade panels, which match the originals installed during construction in the early 1980s.

Perhaps the Millenium Hilton, a 600-ft-tall hotel only 50 ft wide, best stands for the uncertainty in lower Manhattan that has affected so many since Sept. 11. Though the hotel has a sparkling new glass facade, it is not clear when it will reopen its doors.