View Poll Results: Construction is underway, how do you feel about the final design for the WTC site?

192. You may not vote on this poll
  • I am more than satisfied; I believe that the final design surpasses that of the original World Trade Center. 10/10

    50 26.04%
  • While nothing may ever live up to the Twin Towers, I am wholly satisfied with the new World Trade Center; it is a new symbol for a new era. 7/10

    55 28.65%
  • I have come to terms with the new World Trade Center; although it has a number of flaws, I find the design to be acceptable. 5/10

    48 25.00%
  • I am wholly disappointed with the New World Trade Center; we will live to regret the final design. 0/10

    22 11.46%
  • I am biased, but honest, and hate anything that is not a reincarnation of the original Twin Towers.

    17 8.85%
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Thread: World Trade Center Developments

  1. #5776


    Crain's New York
    October 31, 2012

    World Trade Center flooded with 20 feet of water

    By Daniel Geiger

    Of special concern is equipment underground at the site that will generate ventilation for large portions of the World Trade Center, including the National September 11 Memorial and Museum (shown here in the summer). Photo by Buck Ennis.

    The basement levels of the World Trade Center are flooded with between 15 feet and 30 feet of water, government officials and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sources say, the result of the surging sea levels during Superstorm Sandy.

    The flooding equals millions of gallons of water that could potentially cause costly damage to equipment and electrical systems at the multi-billion dollar construction project, though preliminary evaluations appear to show the site was not severely damaged.

    Adding to the difficulties is an ongoing power outage in lower Manhattan that has interfered with efforts to pump out the damaging saltwater, which sources say is significantly more corrosive to electrical wiring and systems than freshwater.

    Of special concern is equipment underground at the site that will generate ventilation for large portions of the World Trade Center, including the retail space, subterranean pedestrian and transit corridors, National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the PATH hub. Another source said on Wednesday morning that preliminary inspections of the site showed the costly plant had not been significantly damaged.

    Another source said that the basement of Four World Trade Center, a nearly 2 million-square-foot office tower being built at the site by Silverstein Properties, was also not damaged.

    Those estimates provide an early indication that the WTC site may have been spared the worst of the storm, though several sources said that estimates of the damage were still being made.

    Those sources said it would be impossible to fully assess the severity of the storm's impact until the seawater has been pumped from the site, which could take more than a week. Water had collected in deep pools some 70 feet below street level, where the World Trade Center's subterranean labyrinth of roads, corridors and infrastructure rests on bedrock.

    A retaining wall surrounds the site underground. Referred to as the bathtub, the wall is in place to seal off the WTC from the Hudson River, but in the case of the flooding, has ironically acted as a basin for the floodwaters.

    "The bathtub usually holds water out; now it's actually holding the water in," a government source said.

    Officials described massive flooding at the site, when surging seas, which rose over 13 feet above normal levels, rushed down West Street. Most of the World Trade Center has been covered over with nearly complete components of its street-level infrastructure, including the Memorial Plaza space and a new section of Greenwich Street that will run through the site.

    When the waters flowed south however, they breached one of the few remaining openings underneath the site, the Vehicle Security Center, which is still under construction and will serve as the WTC's main entrance point for automobile traffic when complete. That structure's ramps and open shaftways acted as a chute for the massive flooding.

    During a press conference Tuesday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo described a catastrophic scene at the WTC site.

    "What I saw last night in downtown Manhattan were some of the worst conditions I had ever seen," Mr. Cuomo said at the press conference. "The Hudson River was literally pouring into the Ground Zero site with such a force we were worried about the structure of the pit itself."

    Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority and the bi-state agency's top New York official, also spoke during Tuesday's press conference and said he doubted the storm surge had caused any structural damage at the WTC site, but that equipment and electrical systems being installed may have been damaged by the flood waters.

    "There was a substantial incursion of water," Mr. Foye said. "I think it's fair to say that salt water and modern electrical equipment don't mix well. We don't expect structural damage but damage to equipment. That assessment is underway and is a high priority."

    There has been no clear estimate yet of what equipment and systems have been damaged at the site and what the cost will be to either fix of replace them.

    ©2012 Crain Communications Inc.

  2. #5777


    New York Observer
    November 1, 2012

    Following Massive Flooding, Work Resumes on World Trade Center After Days Rather Than Weeks

    By Matt Chaban

    So many parts of the city’s crucial infrastructure remain under water, most notably those Con Edison generators downtown, but the city is drying out remarkably fast following the worst storm in living memory. Even some of the subway tubes have come back, if only there was power to run trains through them.

    At his press briefing this evening, Governor Cuomo made a surprise announcement, actually in the middle of talking about what dismal shape the PATH train is in—there appears to be some five miles worth of flooding, the length the line under the Hudson from New York to New Jersey, so that is one thing that will probably be submerged for some time to come. But a place that will not be is the World Trade Center, which after flooding a good 15 to 20 feet across the site only three days ago, is now dry and in working order.

    “Work will recommence at the ground zero site tonight,” Governor Cuomo declared. "I was just congratulating some of the workers, there was tremendous flooding at the ground zero site. We went from seeing the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel turned into a flume, we walked up the World Trade Center site, where water was cascading into the site from every imaginable angle, at such a decibel level, it was disorienting. The entire site was flooded.”

    But through an almost miraculous, and certainly Herculean, pumping and recovery effort, led in part by the Army Corps of Engineers, the site has been cleared in a fraction of the time anticipated. “They originally anticipated it would be two to three weeks before they could get back to work,” the governor said. “But instead of two to three weeks, they’ve gotten it done in three or four days, and the work will recommence tonight on the site, and you’ll see light on again at the site.”

    And indeed we did on the way home, along with a few other buildings way downtown, including the Goldman Sachs headquarters, the American International Building with its red spire and 7 World Trade, which its roof lit up bright as a candle. It just so happens earlier in the day, The Observer spotted a construction lift in operation on Larry Silverstein’s World Trade Center tower 4, but it was not clear if it was an inspection or construction work.

    While it could still be days, if not longer, before downtown finally gets all its lights back, it is nice to see these buildings back up, especially given their symbolic nature. “The ground zero site will be illuminated once again,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York goes back to work.”

  3. #5778


    That is definitely something to smile about.

  4. #5779


    Yes, it does bring a smile to one's face that so many people came together to make sure that this site doesn't get delayed from opening any longer.

  5. #5780


    November 3, 2012

    WTC Site Floods, But Officials Say Buildings Will Be Hurricane-Proof

    By Matthew Schuerman

    Workers return to World Trade Center Site After Sandy. (Joe Woolhead)

    Millions of gallons of water streamed into the World Trade Center site during Sandy, cascading through the PATH terminal and down ramps used for construction vehicles. But officials say the prognosis for flooding, and any other hurricane damage, should be much better once the 16-acre redevelopment is complete.

    “We had a large scale presence of the Hudson River at the site,” said Larry Silverstein, the developer constructing some of the office buildings there. “Once you have an open construction site, there is no physical way to keep it all out.”

    Silverstein estimates the east “bathtub” along Church Street took on about 15 to 20 feet of water. A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the subject, said between 150-200 million gallons of water entered the lower level of the complex, which includes interconnected portions of 1 World Trade Center, the PATH terminal and the September 11th Memorial and Museum. (The PATH and Memorial are closed due to the storm.)

    As of mid-day Friday, the official said about 40 million gallons had been pumped out. He expected the rate would accelerate as more pumps are added.

    He said crews are still assessing the damage to the site and don’t yet have a dollar estimate.

    But he and others connected to the project say that 1 World Trade Center has several design features meant to withstand the high speeds and flooding that come with hurricanes, including:

    - Concrete walls at its foundation that are 6.5 feet thick, reinforced by steel as thick as a human arm
    - Beveled edges up and down the tower that will create eight corners, which will “confuse and disperse wind,” and
    - The lack of windows for the first 180 feet of the tower —an aspect designed in order “terror-proof” the structure, but will also reduce the amount of water entering through openings.

    Additionally, the entire platform for the World Trade Center complex is set to rise 15 feet above grade level, which means that the Hudson River would have to rise at least that high to flow in across West Street. That could be possible in a fierce storm; as it was, Sandy’s 9-foot surge, coupled with high tide, brought the water almost to that height.

    Still, Christian Myer, a professor at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, said that flooding shouldn’t pose a long-term problem to the stability of the structures since the World Trade Center is built on bed rock.

    “As soon as you go off the rock like in Battery Park City,” Myer said, “the water will go into the sand and create a soil condition. You have to go very deep or it will create instability.”

  6. #5781

    November 15, 2012

    WTC Construction Update, November 2012

    4 World Trade Center

    Structural steel is now topped out at the 72nd floor, with only upper mechanical and roof bulkhead construction left. Elevators continue to be installed at shafts up to the 50th floor with separator beam pockets being filled with high strength grout. Concrete and core walls are complete up to the 65th floor, as are column encasements. The temporary diagonal bracings have been removed up to the 60th floor and the curtain wall installation, which began in late April 2011, has reached the 63rd floor. Both the below-grade mechanical work and the fireproofing and masonry work are advancing.

    3 World Trade Center

    Concrete placements for above grade decks are proceeding. Steel columns are being extended from the 6th to the 7th floor with spray-fire proofing operations beginning on the 2nd floor. Installations of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection utilities and CMU walls are continuing on all below grade levels. Three tower cranes are now active on site: two for steel erection and one for concrete operations. The tower's lower podium reached its full seven-story height in November 2012. Fabrication of curtain wall panels has also begun in facilities in Connecticut, Canada, and Italy.

    2 World Trade Center

    Current work at 2 World Trade Center includes completing the street level superstructure steel and concrete. Installation of the building mechanical systems continues throughout the B1-B4 basement levels. Installations of mesh rebar for the east and north sidewalks have commenced, and elevator divider beams are being installed in the center core on B1. Low voltage raceways, conduits and cables are currently being installed and steel and concrete deliveries continue to arrive inside the Vesey Street entrance. The building is expected to be completed to street level by December 2012.

    1 World Trade Center

    Under the Port Authority's supervision, tower steel has topped out at the 105th floor with the fitting of the glass curtain wall above the 88th floor and concrete floors poured above the 104th floor. Core shear walls topped out in October 2012 with the final concrete placement extending walls to the 104th floor mezzanine. The elevator landings, stairs and related structural elements is now completed to the 102nd floor mezzanine. All trusses for the east lobby escalators are set in position and the installation of escalators 1-7 are in progress at the east lobby areas between the B2 and ground floor levels. The installation of the 408-foot-tall telecommunications spire is expected to begin in late November 2012 and reach its full height, 1776 feet, in March 2013.

    World Trade Center Transportation Hub

    Steel erection for the Transportation Hub oculus substructure has begun as has construction connecting to the Vehicular Security Center. Steel and concrete has been placed underneath the 1 subway line along the Greenwich Street corridor. Preparations are being made for the installation of the east arch truss. The steel installation for the oculus superstructure is set to begin in November 2012. The Transportation Hub construction contract was awarded to Skanska in summer 2010. Construction of the West Street pedestrian underpass (the "east-west connector") , linking the World Trade Center with Battery Park City's World Financial Center, is now active on the west side of the WTC site ( just south of 1 WTC and across West Street). The east-west connector structural components are being installed across West Street.

    National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center

    The National September 11 Museum is in the midst of interior fit-out and artifact installation in the underground space with the opening date TBA. Within the Pavilion, electrical contractors are installing buss ducts and working on wire terminations on the 3rd floor, while carpenters are installing black iron and framing on the 1st floor's walls and ceiling. In the Memorial Museum, the plumbing contractors have begun installing trolley beams in the north mechanical room and electrical contractors are working on lighting controls, the electric feed for passenger elevators . With more than 225 trees now on site, more soil installation and tree planting is underway and will continue in phases through 2013. The Memorial reflecting pools and waterfalls were commissioned in late August 2011 with the bronze nameplate installation completed in June 2011. The "Survivors Stairway" was relocated to its permanent home in the underground Memorial in December 2008 and the Slurry wall reinforcement was completed in spring 2009. 75% of the Memorial Plaza opened on September 11, 2011 and has hosted over 4.5 million visitors to date.

    World Trade Center Vehicular Security Center

    Structural steel in the Vehicular Security Center is substantially complete with over 9,000 tons erected to date. Concrete work is now progressing with more than 9,700 cubic yards of concrete poured- about 34% of the total. The Main sprinkler pipe installation has been initiated in the Sub-Basement and Bus Parking Levels as part of the MEP work, Phase I. Hot water and chilled water line installations have begun on the Bus Parking level as well. MEP work continues on to Phase II as the contractors are performing deck layout of conduit and sleeves on the street levels, and installation of conduit on the Bus Parking Level.

    © 2012 Silverstein Properties, Inc

  7. #5782


    Quote Originally Posted by BigMac View Post
    The installation of the 408-foot-tall telecommunications spire is expected to begin in late November 2012 and reach its full height, 1776 feet, in March 2013.
    That's funny. Good one.

  8. #5783
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    New York City


    What is the timeline now?

  9. #5784


    The steel installation for the oculus superstructure is set to begin in November 2012.

  10. #5785


    City Journal
    November 25, 2012

    The Port Authority’s Cloudy Future

    The transportation agency has mortgaged itself to the hilt to rebuild the World Trade Center, leaving few resources for its real mission.

    By Nicole Gelinas

    One World Trade Center’s price tag has risen to $3.9 billion.

    New Yorkers have watched One World Trade Center gradually define the downtown skyline. The massive glass-and-steel building should reach its full height and be ready for tenants within 18 months. But to those tenants, One World Trade may come to symbolize not victory over terror but rather their own miserable commutes. Most of the white-collar workers who will stream into the tower depend on subways, buses, tunnels, and bridges to get to Manhattan. And over the past decade, the government agency in charge of much of the region’s transportation—the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—has neglected that core responsibility in favor of rebuilding lower Manhattan.

    The good news is that the World Trade Center project (technically, the first big phase of a larger, two-phase plan) is closer to completion than to commencement. Over the past three years, not only has the $3.9 billion One World Trade Center (known in the planning stages as the Freedom Tower) risen ever higher; other projects have taken shape downtown as well, including a $3.7 billion train hub, a vehicle security center to receive the trucks that will serve the new office towers, and a remade streetscape. Even a long-running dispute over who will run the 9/11 memorial and museum at the site has been solved.

    Unfortunately, the Port Authority has barely begun to pay for all this rebuilding. Its share of the bill comes to $7.7 billion, which it has borrowed. And to repay that massive debt, the agency will have to divert toll revenue from bridges and tunnels and fee revenue from airports—money that won’t be available for the transportation projects that New York badly needs.

    In the early twentieth century, editorialists, public officials, and good-government advocates fretted that New York’s port, facing competition from as far away as New Orleans, wasn’t reaching its potential. The chief culprit: bickering between New York and New Jersey. New York had the piers to receive ships, and New Jersey had the railways to move the ships’ cargo, but the two sides could never agree about how to invest in port assets. In early 1920, New York governor Al Smith urged lawmakers to do something. “Port development is critical,” he said. “It affects the cost of living; it affects the cost of doing business.” The New York Times agreed, arguing that “the port is a national interest, and it is economically wicked to divide it between New York and New Jersey.”

    The next year, the governors of New York and New Jersey signed an agreement to create the Port of New York Authority (“New Jersey” was added and the words reordered in 1972). Realizing that they would have to work together in other ways—above all, the growing region needed transportation infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels—the two states endowed the agency with a broad mission: “to purchase, construct, lease, and/or operate any terminal or transportation facility” within a defined district along the New York–New Jersey border. To finalize the deal, the governors had to secure congressional approval and beat back a lawsuit by New York mayor John “Red Mike” Hylan, who didn’t want some bistate agency controlling his land.

    The Port Authority clocked some impressive achievements in its early decades, living up to its founders’ Progressive vision of an agency staffed with apolitical technocrats expertly building necessary transportation assets. Starting in the twenties, the Port Authority constructed the George Washington Bridge, linking New Jersey and Manhattan, as well as three smaller bridges—the Goethals, the Bayonne, and the Outerbridge Crossing—connecting Jersey to Staten Island. It also dug the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson and took over the operation of the existing Holland Tunnel. Beginning in the late 1940s, the Port Authority took over and expanded the region’s three airports: LaGuardia, Newark, and Idlewild (renamed John F. Kennedy a month after the president’s 1963 assassination). As more New York City workers moved to the suburbs, the authority opened a Manhattan bus terminal in 1950.

    But the Port Authority began to experience mission creep in the late sixties. Early in that decade, David Rockefeller, vice chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and brother of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, had built Chase Manhattan Plaza in lower Manhattan. Wanting other companies to join him there, he hounded his brother to spearhead office development downtown. In 1960, David Rockefeller’s Downtown–Lower Manhattan Association unveiled a $250 million plan to construct a “world center of trade” on the East River. “The Port Authority seemed the logical agency” to build the complex, the Times said, describing his reasoning, because “the World Trade Center would strengthen the economic fabric of the entire New York-northern Jersey area.”

    Half a decade later, the plan was becoming reality, but it had changed significantly. The project had moved from the east side of downtown to the west, and its price had risen to $575 million ($4.1 billion in today’s dollars). It would also require government tenants, with New York State occupying up to one-fifth of it. To mollify New Jersey for making such a big investment in New York, the Port Authority would also take on responsibility for the loss-making subway system already running between the two states (today called PATH). And it became obvious why promoters wanted the Port Authority to build the World Trade Center: the agency could borrow more cheaply than corporations could, as it enjoyed tax exemptions and took in ample revenue each year from its busy bridges and tunnels.

    Not just Rockefeller but other state and city wise men embraced the World Trade Center. The sixties, remember, were an era of mass-scale slum clearance and other top-down government construction schemes. That the project would demolish “one of the city’s oldest and most colorful commercial centers,” as the Times put it in 1964— a neighborhood abounding with “flower shops and nurseries, hardware stores, book stalls, food and fish markets and restaurants”—didn’t deter officials. Local merchants took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court after losing the legal battle in New York; the court refused them even a hearing.

    In the end, the Port Authority exhausted its financial and political resources in building the Twin Towers, completed in the early seventies. As World Trade Center historian Angus Kress Gillespie wrote in his 1999 book Twin Towers, “The World Trade Center was the last great project that the agency would undertake, at least in our time.” In building the complex, Gillespie concluded, the authority had “stretch[ed] the limits of its charter,” angering regular citizens and small businesspeople. The private real-estate industry, too, was upset that it now faced a huge government competitor with a tax advantage and easy borrowing terms. A group of real-estate operators worried, for example, that the Port Authority would have difficulty finding tenants for its skyscrapers and would “dump the space on the open market at reduced rents.”

    Even as New Yorkers came to love the towers on their skyline, officials began realizing that the World Trade Center fit uneasily within the Port Authority’s mission. In 1983, two years after former deputy mayor John Zuccotti advised them to sell the Twin Towers and use the proceeds to improve mass transit, Governors Mario Cuomo of New York and Tom Kean of New Jersey agreed to study the question. A year later, though, the Port Authority’s consultant determined that “the Port Authority and the two States can derive the greatest value from the World Trade Center if it is retained by the Port Authority,” as the agency announced in its annual report to investors.

    Unfortunately for the region’s transportation infrastructure, the consultant was right, at least about short-term cash value. By 1983, the World Trade Center was enjoying higher occupancy rates and had consequently stopped losing tens of millions of dollars every year; in fact, it had started to turn a small annual profit, about $11 million ($25.4 million in today’s dollars). Further, with an improving economy, the state could vacate some of the office space that it occupied in the towers and allow the Port Authority to take on higher-paying tenants.

    So the governors agreed with the consultant. Instead of seizing the opportunity to return the Port Authority to its original mission, they used the cash to expand its activities dramatically. Worse still was that they had already found a use for any extra money that the World Trade Center generated: not to fund transportation but to “assist in the commercial revitalization of the region,” as Cuomo and Kean agreed formally in 1983. That phrase was code for spending on “regional programs” that had nothing to do with transportation between New York and New Jersey. The following year, the two states also passed legislation directing the Port Authority to develop two waterfront real-estate projects, one in Hoboken and one in Queens.

    Over the ensuing three decades, the agency spent $2.1 billion on everything from development of a Yonkers industrial park to planning studies for Brooklyn’s MetroTech office park to building a rail spur to the Meadowlands sports complex in New Jersey, with some money left over for “community development” in Newark and Elizabeth (in Jersey) and Jamaica (in Queens). As the authority proudly noted in annual reports in the early eighties, it was constructing a solid-waste disposal project in Essex County, New Jersey; had opened “Teleport,” which was, in the words of Executive Director Peter Goldmark, Jr., “the world’s first satellite communications center and office park,” on Staten Island; and was building something called “Fishport,” which would “resurrect the fishing industry in the bi-state harbor.” Encouraged by the governors but not needing much encouragement, the agency had strayed far indeed from bridges and tunnels.

    But in the nineties, pushed by Governor George Pataki, the Port Authority revived the decade-old plan to sell the World Trade Center. The buyer was real-estate mogul Larry Silverstein—though the arrangement was technically a 99-year lease, not an outright sale, so that Silverstein could indirectly benefit from the Port Authority’s tax breaks and other advantages. Despite the complexity of the deal, proponents of a smaller Port Authority were satisfied. “By sharpening the agency’s focus on our airports, seaports, bridges and tunnels,” said Pataki, the handover would let the Port Authority “improve services . . . and become a stronger economic engine.”

    The sale took place on July 24, 2001. The world knows what happened seven weeks later.

    For the first half-decade after 9/11, emotions and empire-building reigned over Ground Zero. Though pure rationality was never going to rule the rebuilding process, Pataki made some critical mistakes. One was to create a new public authority, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), to oversee the rebuilding. The LMDC held design contests for Ground Zero, but it wasn’t accountable for the long-term success of the resulting plans; turning those plans into reality was the responsibility of the Port Authority and Silverstein, still landlord and tenant, respectively. This arrangement gave the LMDC little incentive to come up with a workable design.

    Governor Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg had considerable discretion over the money that Congress had provided to help New York rebuild. Unfortunately, they used it to approve financing for projects that had nothing to do with Ground Zero, ranging from a now-bankrupt sports museum downtown to the Bank of America Tower in midtown. Few officials, including those in the Port Authority, sounded alarms as the politicians frittered away the rebuilding funds.

    Still another mistake was the ambitious “master plan” that Pataki and his advisors pushed: “Memory Foundations,” by celebrity architect Daniel Libeskind, which included a 1,776-foot “Freedom Tower,” a memorial, three smaller towers, and a new PATH station designed by a second starchitect, Santiago Calatrava. The station wouldn’t add new train lines but would feature “two counterpoised canopies over the main concourse, rising some 150 feet like skeletal birds’ wings, that could be retracted hydraulically” in pleasant weather, in the Times’s description. The projects weren’t just fanciful; they were expensive. But money was no object in showing the world that New York would rebuild.

    At any rate, the costs were covered, weren’t they? Silverstein’s insurance funds—$3.5 billion or so—would take care of the Freedom Tower’s $1.1 to $1.3 billion price tag ($1.2 to $1.6 billion in today’s dollars), with plenty left over to build the other towers at the site. And federal aid and more insurance funds would pay for the $2 billion PATH station. When Pataki laid the Freedom Tower’s cornerstone on July 4, 2004, just in time for the Republican National Convention’s arrival in town, nobody was wondering what would happen if the money ran out.

    It took until 2006 for Pataki, the Port Authority, and other state and local officials to admit that the entire Ground Zero plan was impracticable. The Freedom Tower, more an art project than a realistic design, worked as a slide show but not as a building. It would need a complete redesign by Norman Foster, an architect accustomed to working on real office buildings for private clients whose eyes were on the bottom line. The price tag of the PATH station was outpacing construction, too. Little was happening downtown, except for the rise of one tower, Seven World Trade Center, which Silverstein could rebuild quickly because it was outside the official government-controlled site. Pataki could see the end of his term coming; it became obvious that dwindling insurance proceeds wouldn’t cover the rising costs of rebuilding—and the governor panicked.

    The solution that he approved will burden the Port Authority for decades to come. The agency would take over from Silverstein the job of building One World Trade Center and another tower adjacent to the site. Silverstein, who would retain responsibility for building the other three towers at Ground Zero, would see his rent cut significantly and would also receive substantial financial help for proceeding. For example, Four World Trade Center, which is currently being built, is going up under Silverstein’s management but with $1.2 billion in Port Authority–supported debt, as well as commitments from the authority and from New York City to lease two-thirds of the building’s space. All these commitments from the government were necessary because the projects made zero economic sense. Their rationale was, rather, political and emotional—as became clear once again in 2008, when Pataki’s successor, Eliot Spitzer, directed the authority to work even faster, and so incur still more costs, so that the memorial could open by the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

    The fiscal toll of this arrangement is becoming clear. One World Trade Center’s price tag has ballooned to $3.9 billion and the PATH station’s to $3.7 billion. Even after insurance and other reimbursements, these costs, along with the cost of other projects at the site, mean that the Port Authority—which had no World Trade Center costs at all a decade ago—is now on the hook for a total of $7.7 billion. The agency has had no choice but to borrow. In 2002, it was $9.5 billion in debt; it now owes $19 billion. Debt has far outpaced revenue, which has risen only 41 percent over the same period, to $3.8 billion a year.

    It will be at least another decade before anyone knows whether One World Trade Center, Four World Trade Center, and the three as-yet-unbuilt towers will repay their investments. The indications in the authority’s bond deals to finance the first two buildings aren’t promising. For Four World Trade Center, the Port Authority opted not to repay any principal on the 40-year bonds until 2026. For part of its One World Trade Center debt, a $672.5 million bond issued last year, the authority deferred principal repayment until 2039.

    It’s easy to see why the Port Authority wants to put off paying back the principal. It will face not only debt payments but colossal operating costs as well, including security costs. At the unfinished site, these expenditures totaled $106.3 million last year; in 2000, the last full year of the old complex’s operations, they were $203.9 million, or $272.8 million in today’s dollars. (They may be even higher at the new complex; after all, the Port Authority’s overall security bill has tripled in a decade, to nearly $500 million annually, as its public-safety headcount has risen nearly 15 percent.) If the Port Authority hadn’t deferred its principal payments on debt, it would have to spend roughly $500 million a year on debt and operating costs. And to cover those bills, the agency would have to lease all the available office space in the two towers now under construction at $80 per square foot or more. These days, prime office space downtown rents for $42.81 a square foot, according to Cassidy Turley, a commercial real-estate consultant.

    Even under its current arrangements, the Port Authority has taken a risky step. By the middle of the next decade, to pay just its debt costs of $90.2 million annually, Four World Trade Center will have to lease its entire 1.8 million square feet of office space at more than $50 a square foot. Bondholders wouldn’t have taken on this risk normally; the only reason they provided money for the tower was the lease commitments from government agencies. Though One World Trade Center’s finances are murkier, the same calculus roughly holds; in fact, rental prices will probably have to reach the mid-$60s per square foot.

    The question is not whether the Port Authority can attract tenants—any landlord can, at the right price—but whether it can attract enough super-prime tenants to pay the bills. And answering that question means predicting the future of Manhattan real estate, a risky endeavor. Prices may rise over the next decade, or they may not. One World Trade Center and Four World Trade Center represent 5 million square feet of new space dumped onto a market still struggling after the credit bust. Nearby towers at the World Financial Center are themselves losing major tenants to midtown. Brand-new midtown towers, too, are jockeying with older Class-A space for new tenants. Yes, the old World Trade Center started generating profits after about a decade, but that was at a time when Wall Street was growing as a share of the city’s economy and hungry for expensive office space; later, the tech bubble generated similar demand. These days, Wall Street is contracting. And yes, it’s a good start that the Condé Nast media empire has leased about one-third of One World Trade Center at $60 per square foot. But the Port Authority lured the company with sweeteners, including taking over its previous midtown lease for five years, which make it difficult to determine the real price.

    If the Port Authority can’t earn enough rent to pay its debt and operating costs, it will have to subsidize the World Trade Center by tens of millions of dollars a year or more. A private-sector firm might take that kind of risk in return for the chance of a big payoff, but it’s inappropriate for a public entity.

    Like so many other public entities, the Port Authority also has rising employee costs to battle. As the Navigant consulting firm noted in early 2012, the agency spends $143,000 for each of its 6,913 workers in salary and benefits. In 2010, each worker consumed $37,645 in payments for health and pension benefits, up from $27,737 in 2006. Over the past half-decade, benefits grew more than twice as fast as salaries. The Port Authority owes $1.7 billion for the future health costs of its retirees. Though the agency has taken steps to rein in the costs of management and other nonunion employees, the fact that public-safety and other unionized workers dominate the staff makes substantial cuts difficult. Even as the authority has pared down the number of civilian workers, the number of its police officers, who are highly paid, has risen 27.1 percent, to 1,752. In 2010, Navigant notes, every person on the Port Authority’s Top Ten list of overtime earners was a police officer or commander, with nine of the ten more than doubling their six-figure base salaries.

    Also burdening the Port Authority’s budget are construction expenditures, which are higher than they need to be. State and federal laws dictate that on projects funded in part with state and federal support, the agency must pay “prevailing wages,” which run well above market rates for some construction jobs. Last year, federal prosecutors indicted one subcontractor, the Fusella Group, for failing to pay prevailing wages at the PATH station construction site. Last year, in a study for Columbia University, the Regional Plan Association’s Julia Vitullo-Martin examined infrastructure projects headed by other public agencies (not the Port Authority) in New York and estimated that prevailing-wage mandates could add 13 percent to 19 percent to their price tags. The Port Authority also sets aside work for minority and other “disadvantaged” contractors in its large projects, artificially pushing costs higher still.

    The price of the last decade’s rebuilding mistakes will be borne by the people who use New York and New Jersey transportation. The Port Authority lacks the power to tax, so its budgets rely on profits from bridge and tunnel tolls (about $260 million last year) and from airport fees ($447 million). These profits subsidize the PATH system (which lost $396 million), the bus terminal ($113 million), ferries ($8 million), and port operations ($124 million). The profits also pay for investments in transportation—fixing old assets as well as building new ones.

    The World Trade Center costs are already testing this equilibrium. A year ago this fall, the Port Authority hiked tolls for the second time in three years, with the price of a peak-time E-ZPass ride across the Hudson rising 19 percent, from $8 to $9.50. Tolls are set to rise by an additional 75 cents annually for three more years. The agency can’t take that route forever; steeper tolls, plus higher gas prices and general economic malaise, are driving customers away. In 2011, bridge and tunnel traffic fell for the fifth year in a row, as more and more people decided to take the train or a bus instead of driving themselves. Over the last five years, annual PATH ridership has increased by 9.6 million passengers, while 3.8 million more people are taking the bus across the Hudson each year. That is, commuters are leaving the ranks of the subsidizers and joining the ranks of the subsidized.

    But the Port Authority needs more subsidizers to pay for the transportation investments that it must make. Of the $25.1 billion that the agency has spent on capital investment since 2002, about $9.4 billion, or 38 percent, has gone toward World Trade Center redevelopment. The Port Authority does deserve credit for finishing a PATH train signal project, replacing some old train cars, and doing a bit of rehabilitation work at the airports during that time. But these investments have merely maintained the overburdened existing system, not created much-needed new capacity for it.

    Over the next decade, commuters and air travelers will be lucky if the Port Authority can care for the assets that it does have. It slashed its ten-year capital budget by $8 billion to reduce last year’s toll hike after Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey criticized the hike and accused the authority of wastefulness, as if its money woes weren’t the fault of elected officials. The Port Authority does still plan to spend $1 billion to replace cables on the George Washington Bridge, $1.5 billion to rehabilitate the entrances to the Lincoln Tunnel, $1 billion to raise the Bayonne Bridge so that ports can accept larger ships, and at least $1 billion to build a new Goethals Bridge, which has needed replacing since at least the mid-nineties. But again, these projects don’t make life better for residents; they just keep things from falling apart. And the Port Authority is looking to cut capital spending even more. If the agency does have to pay a hefty annual operating subsidy for the World Trade Center, it’s hard to see how it will be able to invest in new infrastructure for the region.

    The missed opportunities are a shame. For starters, Manhattan needs a new bus terminal and garage. At the moment, backups at the Port Authority’s overcapacity West Side bus terminal force bus drivers to idle their empty vehicles on the street or drive them aimlessly around Manhattan or even back to New Jersey. As buses wait for spots at the terminal, the result is “massive delays for our passengers,” says Albert MacPherson, operations manager at Rockland Coaches, which runs commuter buses between the two states. “There’s nothing we can do.” People who don’t commute via bus suffer, too. At community meetings in midtown, one of residents’ top three complaints (along with construction noise and quality-of-life violations) is idling buses, especially around the holidays. The complaints are likely to persist: the loss of a private investor recently led the Port Authority to cancel an $800 million project to build at least an extra garage.

    As for the airports: LaGuardia is desperate for the “state of the art” terminals that the Port Authority has long promised, so that waiting travelers actually have a place to sit. The current terminal was built for smaller planes with far fewer passengers. At JFK, JetBlue spent a lot to build a new terminal, only to continue to lose lucrative short-haul business to Amtrak, in large part because of the prohibitive ground commute to midtown (see sidebar). There’s no reason why the Port Authority couldn’t take on the job of building a new travel lane on the Van Wyck Expressway out to JFK, and then charge private bus companies a premium fare for a real express ride.

    Further, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak travelers face unpredictable slowdowns because the tunnels under the Hudson River are so congested. Two years after Christie canceled plans for it, New York and New Jersey still badly need another rail tube underneath the Hudson. The Port Authority, which was going to build the $8.7 billion tunnel, would be a natural candidate to restart the project. But even if it started tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of commuters would suffer unpredictable rides for another decade.

    The Port Authority can’t retrieve the $7.7 billion borrowed and spent downtown. Nor can it privatize One World Trade Center and its other downtown real estate without realizing an immediate ten-figure cash loss—a loss that New York and New Jersey would have to cover.

    Finding private investment elsewhere won’t solve the Port Authority’s problems, either. The agency has already put out bids for a private group to finance, build, and maintain the replacement Goethals Bridge, and it may try the same approach for a new LaGuardia terminal, but private financing doesn’t replace public resources. Under its Goethals Bridge plan, the Port Authority would have to pledge an annual payment to the private operator to operate the structure—funds that would come out of tolls. Any private operator would work under the same prevailing-wage and other public-sector constraints that inflate costs today. At LaGuardia, similarly, funding for a new terminal would come from airline landing fees and other airport revenues, whether the Port Authority or a private operator did the construction. In fact, if the agency relies on a private operator, it could end up paying more than it otherwise would, since private operators pay more than public entities do to raise financing and must also carve out a profit for their investors. Privatization at other global airports, including London’s Heathrow, has been no panacea, with landing fees rising markedly to pay for private investment.

    But the governors of the two states can take some steps to improve transportation prospects for their constituents. First, they should appoint to the authority’s board people who have real expertise in managing costs on big projects and who aren’t afraid to speak up, especially when the politicians won’t like what they hear. Recent appointments haven’t been reassuring: Christie has appointed his former chief of staff, now a pharmaceutical-industry lobbyist, while Cuomo has named the publisher of the Spanish-language newspapers La Prensa and El Diario. The governors should also work aggressively to reduce the Port Authority’s labor bill, particularly its unsustainable policing costs.

    Both governors should disavow the eighties-style “regional programs” that are unrelated to the Port Authority’s mission and that, unlike bridges and tunnels, produce no revenue. Last year, such programs consumed $153 million in agency money, including $60 million just on debt payment for past projects. That $60 million would have been more than enough to let the agency borrow the $1 billion or so that it should take to build a new bus terminal. If Cuomo and Christie want to dump public money into projects that will never pay for themselves, whether fisheries or fowleries, they should ask taxpayers directly, not hide the bill within the tolls, fares, and fees that commuters and air travelers pay. Unfortunately, the governors are going in the wrong direction. In late September, the Port Authority proudly announced that it was considering taking over airport operations in Atlantic City—miles from both the agency’s Hudson River region and its core mission.

    The governors should also disavow the Port Authority’s hobby of commercial real-estate development. Private companies, not public authorities, should build houses and office buildings. The Port Authority should sell off these projects, even at a loss, since they eat up not only financial resources but time and attention.

    New York City should take a greater interest in the quality-of-life burden that an outdated bus terminal puts on its residents and visitors. The city has benefited greatly from the fact that more tourists as well as workers come to Manhattan every year by bus. The city should help pay for a new terminal, just as it recently paid the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend the subway west from Times Square. And the city shouldn’t wait for a private developer to shoulder the cost of a better terminal as part of a bid to build a midtown office tower, as the agency currently wants to do; by the time the real-estate market is hot enough for that to happen, it’s inevitably about to cool again, forcing the private developer to back out.

    The most important thing that officials can do, though, is be honest about the problem. When New Yorkers wonder why buses are clogging midtown, why there’s no world-class transit from the airport to Manhattan, and why trains to New Jersey and beyond still experience avoidable delays, the people they elect to office shouldn’t respond by blaming the Port Authority, as though its actions were incomprehensible and beyond their control. Instead, they should look in the mirror.

    Copyright The Manhattan Institute

  11. #5786
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Post-Sandy, with the weaknesses of locating a big corporate presence in downtown Manhattan fully exposed, it will be interesting to see how leasing in the new WTC buildings will be effected. Even if the site itself is secured from storm surge, the nearby area isn't. If I was looking to locate my company, I would think more than twice about setting up shop in an area that has proven it can be totally taken out during hurricane season.

    How are the PANYN, Silverstein and others going to deal with that prospect?

  12. #5787


    There's a lot to digest in that article but I can comment on the one small part about wasted construction costs on the WTC.

    Being involved in more than one project inside the fence I see some shockingly unnecessary costs still being racked up by the PA. The CM that is managing the likes of the VSC and T1 is a major source of that problem. There are bills for apartments and hotel rooms, vehicles, flights, phones and the old favorite "sustenance" that the PA pays, 24/7, 365.

    Overtime costs and the exorbitant wages going to dead weight within the ranks of the operators' union (to name one) pile on the pain.

    A retirement age operator, based in the mid-west, who doesn't physically work, can't be allowed to make 300K+ in a year, and have his accommodation and flights paid for. On any job. Ever.
    Last edited by IrishInNYC; November 26th, 2012 at 12:10 PM.

  13. #5788
    Forum Veteran Daquan13's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    East Boston, MA.


    Seems almost like everytime they try to get ahead with the rebuild, they get thrown back by some unforeseen event that makes things even more expensive.

    Or is it just inflation?

  14. #5789
    Kings County Loyal BrooklynLove's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Brooklyn, planet Earth


    jeez man i thought you left. no. it's not inflation.

  15. #5790
    Forum Veteran Daquan13's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    East Boston, MA.


    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynLove View Post
    jeez man i thought you left. no. it's not inflation.

    Aww, shut up!!! No one asked you a thing!!!!

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