View Full Version : Practical Issues for Ground Zero

February 27th, 2003, 10:36 PM
NY Times

In the end, it was not so much about architecture, about solemn memorial pits or soaring gardens in the sky. Instead, the decision announced yesterday to choose Daniel Libeskind's design for the World Trade Center site revolved mainly around politics, economics and engineering, people close to the selection process said.

Almost immediately after the decision was announced, civic groups, downtown business leaders and others began debating the details that will be needed to put the plan into effect.

Many of those details also played a part in the selection of Mr. Libeskind. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg focused on economics at a briefing on the two finalist plans for the site, favoring the street life that the Libeskind plan would create, including a vibrant public plaza that would form a new crossroads of commerce and culture on the site, said people who attended a briefing for the mayor and others.

Officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which oversaw the design competition, acted like engineers as they made their choice, according to those close to the process. They cast doubt on whether the latticework towers proposed by the losing architectural team, called Think, could be built at all and, if so, at what cost, said people who attended the briefing, given by the architects for Mr. Bloomberg, Gov. George E. Pataki and a committee overseeing the site plan selection.

Mr. Pataki was keenly attuned to the politics behind the choice, several participants in the process said.

The governor has long said that the memorial was the most important element of the designs, and he has listened closely to the desires of family members of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Family members told him that the Libeskind memorial sent the message that those victims would be remembered by a symbol of strength — the slurry wall — rather than by what they characterized as a pair of skeletal towers that recalled how their loved ones had died, said the participants in the meetings.

Referring to the latticework towers designed by the Think team, led by Rafael Viñoly and Frederic Schwartz, Roland W. Betts, a development corporation director who was chairman of the steering committee, said, "Many people looked at the Viñoly towers as something that would be a magnet, as an inspiration, for the city and the country and so on, that would propel tourism and commercial development.

"That's how I saw it. What I didn't realize was that other people saw it as the skeletons of the original towers and a constant reminder of the attack and of death." Between those two points of view, Mr. Betts said, "there is not a lot of middle ground."

The plan is more significant for its placement of elements on the site than it is for the imagined commercial buildings rising toward the sky. The choice was made by Mr. Bloomberg and, even more so, by Mr. Pataki, who has wielded the most power over the rebuilding process from the beginning.

The governor said yesterday that the task now is "to make sure that the plan you see will become a reality." Many people doubted that officials from the state, the city, the Port Authority and dozens of city, state and federal governmental entities could cooperate to the degree necessary to create an inspiring plan, Mr. Pataki said. But they did, he said, allowing Mr. Libeskind to create "an inspiring symbol that will reach into the sky and that will let the world know that the terrorists have failed."

Mr. Pataki did not mention the Think team's design in his public remarks. But Lisa Stoll, a spokeswoman, said yesterday that he believed that the Viñoly plan would also have been "a tremendous symbol of New York's resilience."

For 15 months, public officials, civic groups, family members and the general public have debated, often heatedly, the merits of a dozen different schemes for the rebuilding of the trade center.

But yesterday, once the decision was made, many of the vestiges of anger and passion disappeared, and a vast majority of those who followed the process said they wanted to get on with the rebuilding.

As if to illustrate that spirit, just before the presentation of the winning design began yesterday at the Winter Garden, the sparkling glass atrium adjacent to the trade center site, Larry A. Silverstein, the developer who holds the lease rights to the World Trade Center's commercial space, approached Mr. Libeskind.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Silverstein railed against the plans and said that he had the right to choose what would be built on the site. Yesterday, however, Mr. Silverstein clasped Mr. Libeskind on the shoulder and gave him a firm handshake, saying, "Congratulations."

William C. Rudin, the chairman of the Association for a Better New York, a civic group, said that although his organization had written a letter to rebuilding officials supporting the Think design, he was eager to see the Libeskind design succeed.

"The central thing now is to start implementing the transportation components and moving forward with the broader vision for downtown," Mr. Rudin said. "If government does their job in creating those amenities, then I think this design will help create a very exciting rebirth of Lower Manhattan."

And while various civic groups, architecture forums and public advocates have decried the lack of clarity about who was driving the decisions around the trade center, it would be hard to argue that the public did not have a chance to influence the debate.

"In response to the public comment, the process itself changed," Mr. Bloomberg said, with an entirely new design study begun after the public rejected six early proposals for the rebuilding.

"It has been open and competitive. "It has been intensely debated. It is a subject everyone has strong opinions about. In other words, it has perfectly embodied the vitality and dynamism of New York."

The debates are not over, however. Madelyn Wils, the chairwoman of Community Board 1, which encompasses the trade center site, and who is also a director of the development corporation, said the Libeskind plan "has got a lot of great stuff, but it needs a lot of work."

"I don't look at this as anything close to a final plan," Ms. Wils said, adding that many downtown residents would like to see better connections between the site and neighborhoods to the south and west.

Many family members have also expressed worry about a bus parking area proposed for the space beneath the memorial, where floors will be built across the lower part of the pit to shore up the slurry walls that hold back the underground waters of the Hudson River. The concern is that the parking area will be a safety hazard, that a bus could be used to deliver a bomb to the memorial site.

Port Authority officials estimate that the memorial will generate the need for parking up to 160 buses daily, and they have dismissed the safety concern, pledging a vigorous screening program. But they say they are not wedded to the idea of bus parking and could easily do without it. City officials and downtown residents have pushed for the underground parking, however, saying they don't want tourist buses clogging the streets. The city's Department of Transportation recently wrote a letter to the Port Authority saying that the department did not believe another area downtown could accommodate that many buses.

Many such details remain to be worked out, and the architects for the two teams struggled in the three weeks since they were named as finalists to address criticisms of their designs.

Mr. Libeskind, for example, squared off the facades of many of his buildings, making them more amenable for developers and for ground-level retail stores, and he enhanced the area around the intersection of Greenwich and Fulton Streets, creating what one rebuilding official called "one of the world's most majestic crossroads."

The Think team, however, spent much of the last three weeks enhancing the design of its towers, making them lighter to allow them to stand atop the underground PATH terminal and changing the array of buildings that would be suspended within the towers. As a result, rebuilding officials said, the Think plan made little progress in addressing the ground-level public realm, a factor that weighed heavily in Mr. Bloomberg's support for the Libeskind plan.

The resolution of those types of details are what, to many people, made the Libeskind plan the clear winner.

"It succeeds both when it rises into the sky and when it descends into the ground," said John C. Whitehead, the chairman of the development corporation.

February 28th, 2003, 05:17 AM
February 28, 2003
Vision for Lower Manhattan Is Still in Flux

Daniel Libeskind, the architect selected to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, painted a vivid picture yesterday of what New Yorkers can expect to see in four years at the intersection of Fulton and Greenwich Streets: the entrance to a memorial garden that slopes down 30 feet below street level, a museum and a 70-story skyscraper beside a glass tower topped by an antenna that would soar a symbolic 1,776 feet into the sky.

As the winner of a grueling design competition, Mr. Libeskind was exuberant. Joseph Seymour, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre site, was more pragmatic.

In four years, Mr. Seymour said, he expects the memorial garden will be completed, as well as a $2 billion transit center that will rival Grand Central Terminal and newly built stretches of Greenwich and Fulton Streets that are to crisscross the site. But many other elements of Mr. Libeskind's striking plans, he said, are "going to have to evolve."

"We need to work with Libeskind to develop design guidelines for the buildings," Mr. Seymour said.

"The commercial space will evolve over time," he added. "It has to be driven by the market."

Some of the most striking elements of Mr. Libeskind's designs have already "evolved." The "garden in the sky" that was in the original vision he presented in December, in the first stage of the architectural competition he won this week, has disappeared from his glass tower, the tallest building envisioned on the site, replaced by a more sedate restaurant and observation deck. The apartment buildings in the initial plan were dropped to make room for a total of 10 million square feet of office space in five towers, ranging from 55 stories to 70 stories.

The memorial garden, which embraces the footprints of the twin towers, descends 30 feet below street level, to a surface that appeared grassy in the renditions shown yesterday, not 70 feet to naked bedrock, as in his original plan.

It is still unclear where the money for the garden, the museum or the performing arts center will come from, or exactly when they will be built. Many officials said yesterday that the money would come from a combination of federal funds and an international fund-raising effort.

"I have always believed that, for the memorial, we can get additional funding," said Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development. "And I believe we can raise money."

But Mr. Libeskind's design for a submerged memorial park or garden exposes the slurry wall surrounding the site and presents challenges for the adjacent roadway. It requires submerging West Street from Vesey Street to Liberty Street, at an estimated cost of $500 million to $700 million.

"There is no question," said Roland W. Betts, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation director who oversaw the site planning effort, "to make the slurry wall work, that is the material element in his plan."

Mr. Doctoroff suggested that some of the money could come from private donations.

"Greenwich Street, West Street, Liberty Street and Vesey Street form the memorial precinct," he said. "You can make the argument that everything within that precinct is part of the memorial, and money for that can be raised privately."

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced yesterday that he had placed the Lower Manhattan recovery effort on his department's priority list. The department is overseeing $4.75 billion for a number of downtown transportation projects, including the PATH station at the World Trade Center site, the South Ferry terminal and the Fulton Street transit center.

In the next few weeks, Mr. Libeskind will be working with the development corporation and the Port Authority on a more detailed plan, and on the design for the underground transit hub. His work will change the current plan still more: he will have to take into account the demands of the Port Authority, as well as those of the developer who holds the lease for the trade center site, Larry A. Silverstein; surrounding property owners; and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

There is already much debate over whether there should be a large, enclosed mall and how the site will be connected to Battery Park City.

"These things have to be adjusted to the realities of each stakeholder," Alexander Garvin, director of planning for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said of Mr. Libeskind's current designs.

The office buildings themselves, however, will be designed by the architect hired by the site's developer, Mr. Silverstein, and may not look anything like the towers depicted by Mr. Libeskind. Mr. Silverstein and his partners, who pay $120 million a year in rent, have selected David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design the first tower.

Mr. Silverstein is locked in a bitter legal battle with his insurers. He claims that he is entitled to a double insurance payment of nearly $7 billion because there were two attacks on two different buildings at the trade center. That is more than enough to build 10 million square feet of office space. But if Mr. Silverstein loses, he would get only $3.55 billion, and some developers estimate that he could build only about 6.8 billion square feet.

He must also find a tenant at a time when Wall Street is laying off thousands of employees and more than 14 million square feet of office space downtown sits empty.

"It's going to be very difficult to regain those jobs anytime soon," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Economy.com., a consulting firm. "The centrifugal forces driving those jobs out of New York City are great. Both cost and security concerns are inducing large financial firms to relocate at least part of their operations."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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February 28th, 2003, 07:30 PM
I honestly have a newfound respect for Libeskind's plan. *It looks a lot less harsh than his preliminary proposal, especially the modifications to the memorial.

March 1st, 2003, 01:09 PM
Runnerup plan for WTC gave gov death chill

Moments before he would cement his decision to go with the Daniel Libeskind plan for Ground Zero, Gov. Pataki compared the runnerup scheme's towers to "death," sources said yesterday.
Pataki said he believed the latticework towers of design team THINK were a ghostly reminder of the fallen World Trade Center.

The towers "look like death to me," Pataki said, according to several sources.

Pataki's comment came during a briefing that he and Mayor Bloomberg had with the two design teams and Lower Manhattan Development Corp. officials Wednesday, one day before the final choice was publicly announced.

Pataki, who had been briefed at length earlier on the plans, strongly favored the Libeskind design largely because of its concept of leaving the walls of The Pit exposed as part of a memorial to the victims, sources said.

Bloomberg had problems with both plans. Ultimately, he preferred the public elements of Libeskind's design and equated THINK's towers to "gas tanks," like the kind that once rose in Elmhurst, Queens, the sources said.

Construction doubts

LMDC board member Roland Betts lobbied for the THINK plan during the briefing. A committee of LMDC board members had endorsed the THINK plan Tuesday.

During the briefing, THINK team architect Rafael Vinoly focused mostly on building the stainless steel towers in 80-foot increments.

But the presentation came off as muddled to Pataki and Bloomberg, sources said, and there were doubts about whether the construction techniques could even be pulled off.

A little more than an hour into the discussion, Pataki left to attend a bill-signing ceremony. Some officials, including the mayor, didn't realize Pataki had gone, sources said.

But Pataki soon called Bloomberg, who stayed for another hour, to say he wanted Libeskind. Bloomberg agreed.

Pataki spokeswoman Lisa Stoll said, "The governor has, throughout the process, encouraged everyone to speak their mind."

A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.

Matthew Higgins, an LMDC spokesman, said only that the choice came after "months of deliberation" over the site.

Originally published on March 1, 2003

March 3rd, 2003, 01:32 PM
I didn't realize that the Garden Tower was no longer that anymore. *So now it's just an office building topped with an antenna? *They are going to have to work pretty hard to convince everyone that the antenna is a structural element. *Otherwise, there is no way they will achieve WTB status.

March 3rd, 2003, 01:53 PM
Or even 1,776' status.

March 3rd, 2003, 02:11 PM
The gardens are still there its just that they have been reduced and restaurants, cafes, and observation platforms have been added.

March 3rd, 2003, 08:38 PM
I have a question for anyone smart to answer. I realize that the 70 story main tower of the new WTC is not nearly as tall as we would've hoped. And with such morons shaping public opinion, they may lower it yet. My question is what is the tallest height there will be a viewing platform from? I know they have Gardens up higher, but how high? It's bad enough the office space doesn't go higher up, but from pictures it seems like they wont even build USABLE tourist space too high, HALF THE BUILDING IS A METAL POLE. I'm very upset about it, but doesn anyone know the tallest height people can go to? And it's probably not the tallest at that point is it? Hmmm..... I'm dissapointed.

March 3rd, 2003, 08:40 PM
Wow, sorry i skimmed all these writings. Eugenius, did you say they did away with the gardens? As in all office space that high and then a spire? Or a spire instead of the gardens. MAJOR difference, how much USABLE space there is, is what really matters to me. Most importantly i want office space there. Anyway, what's the situation with the gardens?