A pivotal report from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has simplified plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center site, trimming Santiago Calatrava’s PATH terminal while committing to a new budget and schedule that would open the World Trade Center memorial plaza a full decade after the September 11 attacks, and complete the Freedom Tower by 2013.
In a report to his board today, Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward reiterated previous statements that the PATH station will lose its “oculus,” or retractable skylight, that had given the project its persuasive symbolism of a bird taking flight. The redesign, which Ward said Calatrava had helped configure, would produce a ribbed, enclosed roof and substitute conventional steel columns for the V-shaped trusses in Calatrava’s original design. Ward maintained that cutbacks would allow the station to proceed with its essential elements intact, in lieu of a wholesale redesign of the project.
To that end, Ward reminded board members that the station’s original purpose had involved expanding rail capacity by allowing for 10-car trains. “We were doing that before the attack,” he said. Since the attack also obliged the agency to restore the station, he continued, the new design would produce a suitable icon at a manageable cost of $3.2 billion.
Further streamlining construction plans, Ward recommended “turning the memorial upside down.” Rather than insisting on finishing the sunken memorial garden and museum before the surrounding skyscrapers, Ward endorsed building the memorial plaza first. “We will be able to pour a concrete floor as a deck-over, in a one-time event that will allow a ceremony on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks,” he said. “Our goal is to complete the full memorial as soon as possible.”
Tellingly, Ward chose to discuss the memorial rather than the schedule for the four skyscrapers due to surround the site. A slide in his presentation pegged completion of the Freedom Tower, the only building the agency owns, by 2013. But if the Port Authority and partner agencies finish the at-grade vehicle checkpoint and memorial plaza by 2012, as Ward projected, developer Larry Silverstein would not be able to blame delays in his tower on the Port’s management of necessary infrastructure.
In a statement, Silverstein’s team remained noncommittal. “We appreciate the Port Authority’s work over the past several months in trying to develop greater certainty about the schedule and cost of its projects at the World Trade Center site,” the developer said. “We are now going to study the Port Authority’s report and back-up materials so that our construction professionals can evaluate the new dates they have identified.”
With the revised schedule, Ward presented a budget calling for an extra $1.1 billion above what the Port has already dedicated to the site over the next ten years. Steve Sigmund, a Port spokesperson, told AN that his agency would “work with project partners” to meet financial targets. Those partners—city and state agencies, along with Silverstein—are all but certain to keep revising their own budgets as construction and the credit crisis continue.
At a press conference, Mayor Bloomberg put an optimistic face on rebuilding efforts. “Right now Wall Street is hurting, but the businesses will come back,” he said, with a nod to the troubled site. “And this is a great place to have your office.”