(Rendering courtesy of LMDC)

Two years after terrorists reduced the 12-million-sq-ft World Trade Center to rubble, officials charged with the site’s $10-billion redevelopment are cautiously celebrating the end of a major bottleneck to the recovery of Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan by putting the final touches on a detailed plan for the 16-acre complex. "We’re starting to pick up steam," says John N. Lieber, director of WTC development for Silverstein Properties Inc., New York City, the parent company of the entity that, along with retailer Westfield America Inc., had signed a 99-year lease on the trade center less than two months before Sept. 11, 2001. "A lot of the complicated political and policy decisions are coming together," says Lieber, whose job was created last March by WTC redeveloper Larry Silverstein. "It’s an exciting time to get involved."

There are still open questions regarding the WTC, but the recent "big hug" between Silverstein and the state’s Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corp. over control of the architecture for the proposed 1,776-ft-tall contender for the title of "World’s Tallest Building" paved the way for progress. The July announcement that local high-rise architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill–Silverstein’s choice–would reign over the $1-billion Freedom Tower envisioned by LMDC’s master planner Daniel Libeskind catapulted the redevelopment from a holding pattern into forward motion.

The agreement calls for Libeskind to collaborate with Childs during conceptual and schematic design and cleared the way for submission for approval to LMDC’s steering committee of a final grand plan for the new WTC. That should happen in about a week, says Anthony G. Cracchiolo, director of priority capital programs for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owns the site and developed the trade center 40 years ago.

With the stalemate over, the port authority is girding itself for the big push to meet New York Gov. George E. Pataki’s construction schedule, laid out in April. The goal is to break ground by this time next year for the $1-billion icon tower; a $2-billion transportation hub, including a permanent PATH subway terminal; and site infrastructure. Those elements are scheduled to be done by year-end 2008.

"It’s a very ambitious schedule and we believe it is achievable," says Cracchiolo.

In other recent developments relating to 9/11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general released a scathing report, claiming EPA lied to residents of Lower Manhattan about air quality after the attacks.

(Photo courtesy of FEMA)

In better news from Washington, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development last month announced $156 million in federal funds, to be managed by LMDC, to improve public parks, streets and open space in Lower Manhattan. In July, HUD announced a $50-million package to help produce more than 300 affordable housing units. The funds are part of a total of $3.4 billion HUD is investing in the area’s recovery.

The $16-million, federally funded WTC investigation into the performance of the buildings on 9/11, carried out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., is about to enter the eyewitness and survivor interview phase. NIST says a third interim report will be issued in December and a final report next August.

Interim Path Subway Terminal will open in Ground Zero in November. (Photo by Michael Goodman for ENR)

As part of its research and development, concurrent with the WTC investigation, NIST and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers are holding a workshop for some 60 experts on Oct. 2-3 in Baltimore to identify the research and development gaps to be filled in considering fire as a structural design load. The workshop is preceded by a Sept. 30-Oct. 1 conference on the same subject, sponsored by SFPE and the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Model code writers also are considering code changes proposed as a result of 9/11.

In New York City, the port authority reports the WTC name will not change. But resemblance to the original ends there. A silver lining to the cloud of 9/11 is that the rebuild is considered an improvement over the original, especially as it relates to the rest of Lower Manhattan. In addition to 10.1 million sq ft of office space, the Libeskind plan calls for a 4.7-acre memorial garden, sunken 30 ft, with the preserved footprints of the twin 110-story towers and an exposed section of the foundation wall; a grand "piazza" named the Wedge of Light at the intersection of the restored Fulton and Greenwich streets; nearly 1 million sq ft of retail space and 280,000 to 380,000 sq ft of cultural space (ENR 3/10 p. 12). The LMDC steering committee will receive a final plan for approval that includes specifics on street widths, alignments, the complex’s security plan and generally, "how to make it all workable," says Cracchiolo.

Developing concurrence on the plan was a near-miracle, considering the number of "stakeholders" and their many, often- competing interests. There also was the high level of emotion surrounding Ground Zero, where nearly 3,000 people died. In the final plan, the port authority is asking for 8.4 million sq ft of commercial space on site in four buildings ranging in height from 50 to 70 stories. The fifth, 1.7-million-sq-ft office building would be located off site across Liberty Street (Click here to view map), on the plot now occupied by the vacant Deutsche Bank building, damaged when the 110-story Two World Trade Center collapsed, and an adjacent parking lot.

The advantage of adding the Deutsche bank site is that space would be available there for delivery truck and other security check-in zones, says Cracchiolo. That would relieve overcrowding below grade within the site proper, caused by basement real estate lost to the sunken garden. Offsite security zones would also eliminate the need to harden the memorial and PATH stations. Purchase of the lots is still uncertain due to an insurance-related lawsuit. Once it is resolved, they could be acquired by purchase or condemnation, says Cracchiolo.

A question remains as to whether there will be any tenant parking within Ground Zero. Also, the location of the bus terminal for visitors to the trade center memorial has not been set. The port authority reports, however, that it is "definitely not on site."

Seven WTC, with substation is first up. (Rendering left courtesy of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP ; Photo by Michael Goodman for ENR)

Mum’s the word on the Libeskind-Childs collaboration, other than that work is under way toward a 2.5-million-sq-ft tower "consistent with the master plan." That means some 70 occupied floors and a steel antenna tower that reaches 1,776 ft, with a public observation deck part way up the tower. The port authority says the tower will remain in the northwest corner of the complex, as proposed by Libeskind, rather than over the $2-billion transportation hub, as suggested by Silverstein. The developer has not formally selected design consultants besides SOM, though Silverstein is continuing to work with the team that provided preconstruction services for Seven WTC, already under reconstruction.

Groundbreaking for the icon tower is set for late next year and steel is scheduled to be topped out in September 2006. The building should come on line in mid-2008. For the remaining office towers, Silverstein’s "expectation" is to begin one each year after 2004 and to complete one each year after 2008, ending in 2012.

Conceptual design for the transportation hub is complete and the port authority has just signed the contract with its local consultant, Downtown Design Partnership. The port authority expects to have in place, by next month, a $1.7-billion grant from the Federal Transit Agency. Financing will be completed by $300 million in insurance funds.

The FTA grant would allow preliminary engineering to begin as well as let the port authority proceed with environmental approvals. To speed the process, the port authority split transit-related and commercial development approvals so that they can proceed concurrently. "We need to get records of decision no later than next August for the transit hub and next April for the Freedom Tower," says Cracchiolo.

There are other signs of life at Ground Zero. Steel erection is set to begin next month on Seven WTC–the first commercial building to rise from the ashes. Construction of the concrete-framed electrical utility substation in the building’s base is 80% complete. Work is on schedule to turn the substation over to the utility in the first quarter of 2004, say sources. Unlike the original configuration, the office tower, with a steel frame and concrete core, does not bridge the substation but rather grows from it structurally.

Transit improvements are moving ahead. The temporary WTC PATH subway terminal is on course to reopen in November, which will simplify the commute from New Jersey. A couple of blocks from Ground Zero, the city is moving ahead on a $750-million Fulton Street Transit Center. To expedite construction, on July 30, the Metropolitan Transit Authority formed the Capital Construction Co. Last month, MTA awarded a design contract to the local office of ARUP. Construction contracts are to be let next year and the hub completed by the end of 2007.

The center will connect seven subway lines and PATH. The port authority is building a moving walkway in an underground passageway connecting the two transit hubs to the World Financial Center. That should shorten the walk end to end by 10 minutes, says Cracchiolo.

Finalists in the Ground Zero memorial competition will be announced this fall. (Rendering courtesy of LMDC)

For the WTC memorial competition, LMDC says it is slogging through 5,200 entries from 62 nations and will announce five or so finalists this fall.

Legal actions related to 9/11 are still pending. Silverstein is trying to convince the court to overturn two previous rulings, both related to whether the plane attacks on the twin 110-story towers constitute one or two occurrences for purposes of the $3.55-billion-per-occurrence insurance program. "Whatever the outcome, we expect a trial on any remaining issues," says Marc Wolinsky, Silverstein’s lawyer.

There is a motion to dismiss personal injury lawsuits against the port authority, Silverstein, the trade center’s original designers and others. The decision will not affect the rebuild because Congress passed a statute limiting defendants’ liability to the amount of liability insurance, says Wolinsky.

Another suit attempts to make the port authority legally bound to follow New York City’s building code. The agency says it complies voluntarily.


With one exception, progress on recovery of surrounding buildings damaged on 9/11 is good. The first 1,000 of 1,700 workers will move back into the Verizon building beginning Nov. 1, after a $1.4-billion rebuild. The 1-million-sq-ft U.S. Postal Service building is on course to reopen next spring. Fiterman Hall of the Borough of Manhattan Community College is the only building not under repair or in court with insurers.

Though WTC sources say they are weary from two years of trying to "reach concurrence," they are eager to see the fruits of their labors in coming years. "Nothing could be more important or more rewarding" than reconstruction, says Silverstein’s Lieber.

Port Authority Doesn’t Skip a Beat After Trauma of 9/11

As program manager, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has the often-frustrating role of coordinating all aspects of the WTC’s $10-billion reconstruction. But the job is almost therapeutic–a positive way to deal with the trauma of the experience. The port authority, which occupied 28 floors in the 110-story north tower, lost 84 people on 9/11.

DeMartini led 50 people to exit.

The heroism of two of those who perished–Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz–has been inspiring (ENR 10/1/01 p. 14). Their story was further documented on Aug. 29 in The New York Times. The article was based on interviews with survivors and transcripts of audio tapes from 9/11, released Aug. 28 under court order by the port authority.

De Martini and Ortiz are credited with helping to save more than 50 people. First, De Martini led his staff on the 88th floor, which had sustained major damage when the terrorist planes hit above, to a corner office. Taping the door shut to keep smoke out, he went back into the chaos in search of a way out. He soon returned and led the 25 to 40 people to a clear stairwell.

De Martini, Ortiz and Mak Hanna, a survivor, then went to the 89th floor and led a group of 23 from MetLife to the stairwell. The building collapsed soon thereafter.

"Despite the overwhelming grief felt by the staff, they literally dusted themselves off that day and went right back to work," says Frank Lombardi, the port authority’s chief engineer. "For these reasons, our agency continues to move forward."

In 2002, the authority awarded $1.1 billion in construction contracts and put $1 billion of work in place. This year, it expects to award $700 million and put $1.1 billion in place.

Proposals for Change Focus on Extreme Conditions

The dearth of protocols for emergency evacuation of commercial buildings under extreme circumstances has prompted a rethinking of egress and evacuation strategies by codes and standards writers. In addition, the catastrophic fires triggered by the fuel of the hijacked planes that slammed into the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the resulting untended fire in Seven WTC that led to its collapse, are fueling research and development on the performance of tall buildings under extreme fire loads.

Proposals for change to the 2006 editions of the two sets of model codes–the life safety code and building code published by the National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, Mass., and the International Building Code published by the International Code Council, Falls Church, Va.–focus on life safety issues, but also include structural topics.

On the table is widening stairwells in tall buildings to a minimum 6 ft from the current 44 in., and the use of elevators for egress during emergencies. Proposals have also been received for concrete or masonry stair enclosures in buildings over 250 ft. People are also calling for visual and tactile floor egress path markings and floor-level exit signs. And there are proposals to require all corridors, even those with sprinklers, to be fire-resistance rated.

Also under the microscope is the acceptability of hourly fire-resistance ratings of structural components and the adhesion of fireproofing. The adequacy of vibration and impact tests for spray-applied fireproofing is also being questioned.

Many of these issues are being hotly debated, say sources, but there seems to be broad acceptance that fire should be considered a structural design load. There is less agreement on whether the codes should address progressive collapse and blast-resistant construction. On the philosophical side, the topic of whether codes should address extraordinary events or issue disclaimers saying they don’t is under debate.

Sources say answers to many code questions may not come until next summer, when the National Institute of Standards and Technology issues a final report on its $16-million WTC investigation.

Assurances on Air Quality Draw Fire

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pronouncement one week after 9/11 that the air in Lower Manhattan was safe to breathe was made without sufficient data and analyses. Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) quickly seized upon that conclusion, from an EPA inspector general’s report released Aug. 21, to suggest a White House cover-up.

Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman acknowledges that the White House did edit EPA releases about air quality to reassure the public. "But nothing was ever changed in a way to jeopardize the health of the people," she says.

When EPA said on Sept. 18, 2001, that the air around Ground Zero was safe, the agency lacked air monitoring data for particulate matter and polychlorinated biphenyls, the IG report notes. Studies during the two years since the attacks reveal a mix of hazardous airborne contaminants in the plume. The cloud included elevated levels of asbestos, lead, glass fibers and concrete.

Many residents are concerned that the pollution settled into structures within the area, posing a lasting public health risk. The IG report says answers won’t come soon: "A definitive answer to whether the air was safe to breathe may not be settled for years to come."

The report recommends EPA coordinate disaster-related protocols for indoor air quality with the Dept. of Homeland Security and other agencies. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) wants a more comprehensive cleanup.