June 19, 2008 -- The Port Authority admits that "all options are on the table" for the Freedom Tower, which the agency is trying to sell to private developers.
On Tuesday, The Post first reported the PA has approached both Brookfield Properties and Related Cos. about possibly unloading part or all of the behind-schedule, $3 billion project.
PA spokesperson Candace McAdams confirmed seeking outside "investors" to Bloomberg News, adding, "We want to make sure we have the best value for the Freedom Tower and downtown. Part of that process is we are in discussions with people. All options are on the table."
The PA has tried to spin the sale pitch as a "partnership" offering. However, it is unlikely a private development company would assume the risk without also having control of it - which would effectively require buying it.
One possible option is for a developer to take on a management role in the tower while having only a small amount of equity.
But it's unclear what purpose that would serve for the Freedom Tower, which already has Tishman Construction to build it and Cushman & Wakefield to handle leasing.
June 12, 2008 -- SO, Gov. Paterson has directed his newly appointed Port Authority executive director, Chris Ward, to "audit" the state of Ground Zero construction. Having followed the story for more than six years, I think I can save Ward a lot of time and trouble.
If he's honest, he'll level with the public about what's really been accomplished at the World Trade Center site: next to nothing.
Sure, there are a lot of machines making a lot of noise. You can't close down one "temporary" PATH terminal and put in an entirely new one just a few feet away without making a racket.
But lots of what's going on is what real-estate developers derisively call "moving dirt around." The likelihood it will result in even a single component of the new WTC being finished on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, just over three years from now, is nil.
The Freedom Tower is finally under way, but good luck if you expect it to be done by 2011, as the PA insists it will, against all logic and past history.
Towers 2, 3 and 4, to be built by Larry Silverstein, were promised to be done by the end of 2012 - but that deadline is toast, thanks to Silverstein and the PA recently agreeing to a six-month extension.
The extra time is supposedly to try wooing Merrill Lynch to the site. But how many more reasons will they find to delay what the public, and history, demand - namely, actual construction of actual buildings as repeatedly promised?
What about the memorial? We're expected to believe that in a city where outdoor water fountains must be turned off from fall to spring, we'll soon have two cascading square cataracts, each 200 feet on a side, operating year-round. Can I also sell you a bridge?
The Santiago Calatrava- designed PATH terminal is proving so expensive to get off the ground, the PA is quietly, but seriously, weighing whether it can afford to build it at all.
The scandalous truth about the WTC site is matched by state government blunders all around it - the failures to take down the hulks of 30 Liberty St. (blame the LMDC) and Fiterman Hall (state-controlled CUNY) and the Fulton Street Transit Center fiasco (the MTA).
So, go to it Mr. Ward - tell the truth. It shouldn't take long. Just take a walk around the pit and tell us what you see.
A model of 1 World Trade Center shows the 186-foot-high cutaway, or chamfered, corners at the base of the tower. The first of these distinctive corners is now taking structural form. (Photo: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)
Yes, that enormous column at the center of the photograph is bent. No, it is not a structural accident. Instead, it shows the cutaway corners at the base of 1 World Trade Center beginning to take shape. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)
Where’s the guy with the plumb line?
After five years of designing and engineering, could they actually be building crooked columns at 1 World Trade Center?
As it happens, they are. But this is all according to plan. In fact, the two converging columns at the southeast corner of the building represent a milestone at the trade center site, as the skyscraping centerpiece — also known, but less and less, as the Freedom Tower — begins to assume its distinctive form.
“I was just thrilled to see these pieces coming out of the ground,” said David M. Childs, consulting partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architects of the tower for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
In simplest terms, 1 World Trade Center is a glass-walled tower sitting atop a glass-clad concrete base. Where base and tower meet, the floor plan is a 200-foot square. At the top of the tower, it is a 142-foot square, rotated 45 degrees.
Reflecting this ever-diminishing floor plan, the corners of the tower taper gradually as they rise, at an angle of 3.8 degrees. This cutaway appearance is called a chamfer, and it is intended as a subtle homage to the chamfered corners of the original twin towers.
Strictly speaking, the base of the building did not need to be chamfered. But Mr. Childs said that as a purely rectangular form, it “looked a little clunky.” So the architects designed a mirror image of the tower’s taper, also at a 3.8-degree incline. As a result, the top of the base will hang over the bottom by 16 feet at the corners.
Most of the base is to be clad in prismatic glass panels, with protective screens behind them, in front of solid concrete walls. At the corners, the facade panels will be made of flat-surfaced glass, Mr. Childs said, so that it will appear as if the prismatic glass fields have had a clean slice taken out of them.
The first step toward this ethereal-sounding composition has now been taken. In brute steel.
The new Yankee Stadium is among the projects in which the work of Testwell Laboratories is in question.
Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times
Testwell Laboratories was responsible for testing of concrete used at the Freedom Tower, now under construction at ground zero.
Manhattan prosecutors are investigating whether the leading concrete testing company in the New York area, which has been hired to measure and analyze the strength of the concrete poured at some of the biggest construction projects in the city, failed to do some tests and falsified others, officials involved in the inquiry said on Friday.
The investigation has uncovered problems with tests the company conducted on concrete poured over the last two years at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the foundation of the Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan, along with as many as a dozen other projects, said several of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
The investigation has also raised questions about past work done by the company, Testwell Laboratories Inc., at a wide range of sites around the city. Construction and inspection practices in the city are already under scrutiny as a result of a series of fatal accidents and arrests on corruption charges.
The Yankees and the developer of the team’s new stadium, along with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is building the Freedom Tower, said the concrete used for their structures had been determined to be sound and posed no safety threat. But they acknowledged that they had questions about the company’s work.
The testing of concrete by companies like Testwell is one of the most basic safety measures used for all sorts of construction projects in the city, from apartment houses to bridges. The companies, both at job sites and in their laboratories, are supposed to conduct a variety of tests to make sure that the concrete was properly mixed and set, and that it meets industry standards for strength and durability.
The investigation centers on allegations that the company in some instances failed to do preliminary tests, including some known as slump tests, and later falsified the results of more sophisticated compression tests, officials said. A building boom in the city, meanwhile, has fueled the demand for concrete — supplied by an industry that still bears the taint of decades of mob domination.
Lawyers for Testwell defended the company and its work. They said its officials had done nothing wrong and had cooperated with investigators, who on Wednesday took some 200 boxes of documents and computers from Testwell’s main office in Ossining, N.Y., as well as from a trailer at Yankee Stadium and another office in Queens.
“They are quite confident that at the end of whatever this investigation is, it will show that they have done their job correctly and honestly,” said one of the lawyers, Martin B. Adelman.
The investigation is being conducted by the Labor Racketeering Unit in the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, along with five other city agencies and inspectors general.
The stadium in the Bronx, being built at a cost of about $1.2 billion — much of it financed with tax-exempt bonds — is to open in 2009. The Freedom Tower, at the site of the former World Trade Center, will be the city’s tallest building if it is finished as planned.
According to city records, Testwell has roughly $12 million in city contracts to provide a wide range of testing services — well beyond just concrete — to a number of different city agencies.
It is unclear what impact the investigation would have on other projects, completed or under way, that relied on work by Testwell. The city’s Buildings Department said in a statement that it would take “action based upon the findings of law enforcement.”
Among the other projects under scrutiny, one official said, were several city schools and an amusement park in New Jersey.
Investigators said it was unclear why a company might fail to conduct tests or falsify test results. “I guess it keeps your overhead and costs down if you don’t actually do the tests,” one official said.
The allegations that prosecutors are reviewing include overbilling, double-billing and billing for tests the company did not conduct, one official said. Among the possible charges the prosecutors could bring are falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, both felonies.
In addition to its work measuring the strength of concrete, Testwell also examines steel and tests for the presence of asbestos and prosecutors were looking into at least one incident in each of those areas, an investigator said. In one, a worker died last year when he fell through the floor of a landmark building at 113 Bank Street in the West Village, where officials believe Testwell failed to ensure that the proper shoring work had been done, the investigator said.
In another, the company tested for asbestos at La Guardia Community College in 2000 and certified that a building there was clean, but later tests found that asbestos was present, the investigator said.
One of Testwell’s lawyers, Scott Stone, took issue with the characterization of the company’s work at La Guardia College, and provided a copy of an inspection report that listed materials containing asbestos that were found in the building.
Mr. Stone also played down the company’s role at the Freedom Tower, saying it had done no concrete testing there, just a week of vibration monitoring.
The investigation began about five months ago as a result of irregularities uncovered by monitors hired by the Yankees and by the Port Authority, as well as by the authority’s own engineers, according to law enforcement officials and people involved in both projects.
The inquiry involves the city’s Department of Investigation and Buildings Department, as well as inspectors general from the Port Authority, the School Construction Authority and the State Dormitory Authority.
One investigator said prosecutors hoped to begin presenting evidence to a grand jury soon.
The company, formed 40 years ago, is one of a small number that perform concrete testing in the New York area. It employs more than 200 people, according to business records, and reported nearly $20 million in sales last year. One of its lawyers, Mr. Adelman, said it had in recent years employed an independent monitor, Ronald Goldstock, to ensure the integrity of its work.
All concrete that is delivered to construction sites is tested by firms hired by the owners or builders. When concrete trucks leave their batching plants, paperwork is time-stamped, and the time is again noted on arrival at a job site.
The tests are typically conducted on concrete poured into cylinders 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter; the cylinders are kept on the job site, in the same conditions as the poured concrete. The samples are then sent to laboratories, where the strength is tested. Concrete cures and its strength increases over time, and tests are performed at 14 days, 28 days and 56 days.
Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Yankees, said that a company hired by the team to monitor the stadium project, a common practice in large construction endeavors in an effort to uncover fraud and abuse, discovered problems with Testwell’s work and began its own internal investigation. The monitor, Ed Stier of Thacher Associates, took the information he developed about the tests to the authorities.
By next Monday, Gov. Paterson wants a frank assessment of Ground Zero progress, costs and timetables. If the Port Authority delivers it by then, it would mark one of the few Ground Zero deadlines the agency has met.
Meanwhile, get set for major disappointment. Again.
Let's face it: What the PA's done at Ground Zero since 9/11 amounts to - in the words of The Post's Steve Cuozzo, who's been exposing follies there for years - "next to nothing."
And newly installed PA boss Chris Ward has every reason to tell the gov what's long been obvious: There's no there there.
Ward's no dummy; why should he assume ownership of unrealistic schedules and undoable plans drawn up by his predecessors? So, again, next week's news likely won't be pretty.
One business-world maxim says it's better to under-promise and overdeliver. Yet then-Gov. George Pataki for years did the opposite - making vows he had no chance of keeping.
Pataki orchestrated endless "good news" announcements, groundbreakings and other ceremonies - in the hope, no doubt, that no one would notice that no actual work was getting done.
"We are entering a new phase in the rebuilding effort, moving from planning to implementation," Pataki boasted in 2003.
"In the next year, we will begin building the world's tallest building, a 21st-century transportation hub and, most importantly, a memorial, all at the same time," the then-gov said.
Pataki vowed to have the Freedom Tower "topped out" in time for the fifth anniversary of 9/11 - on Sept. 11, 2006.
Ha! By that date, not even the planning was finished. Today? No one expects the Freedom Tower to be completed by even the 10th anniversary.
And who knows what Ward will say next week? New Yorkers can fairly wonder if work will be finished even 15 or 20 years after the Twin Towers fell.
Costs, too, have escalated beyond all reason - which alone may require Ward to scale back.
All in all, it's a searing testament to the gross incompetence and fecklessness of the entire reclamation effort.
Ward, new to the job, escapes blame. For now. But going forward, he's driving the bus. He may call to push back the deadlines yet again - but whatever timeframe he sets, he must meet.
And no cushy deadlines, either.
New Yorkers have waited too long for a replacement for what was destroyed by terrorists on 9/11. They shouldn't have to wait one day longer than necessary.
Ward has the unenviable task of breathing new life into a project that is vital to New York's economy - and New Yorkers' pride in their skyline.
More important, he must achieve rapid progress - and Paterson must make sure he does.
Unless, that is, the governor wants Pataki's Pit to become Dave's Debacle . . .