Among the problems the Port Authority says it has solved in its new report is how to permanently support the No. 1 subway tunnel, shown here, which bisects the World Trade Center site. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)
Christopher O. Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, at an authority board meeting in September. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)
Instead of being delayed until 2013 or 2014, the World Trade Center memorial — or at least important elements of its plaza — can be opened on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said on Thursday.
But in what is supposed to be the most realistic timetable and budget [Text] ever presented publicly for the rebuilding of ground zero, the authority’s executive director, Christopher O. Ward, was careful to note that even that date was not so much a guarantee as it was a reasonably confident projection, based on hard facts but also on the assumption that many things will go right from this day forward.
“This report allows us to say with certainty what we’re building, who’s building it, when it will be built and for how much,” Mr. Ward told the authority’s board of commissioners at a morning meeting.
Even in the best case, he said, it will be necessary to suspend service on the No. 1 subway line below Chambers Street for six weeks in 2010, “with some potential outages as necessary” in 2009. He also said PATH service to the World Trade Center would be “impacted by weekend closures” starting next summer and stretching out three years, for 40 weekends out of each year.
Four years ago, officials said that most of the trade center’s most important elements would be completed by the end of 2009.
Future milestones and goals for all the significant projects on the 16-acre trade center site were outlined in Mr. Ward’s widely awaited report to Gov. David A. Paterson, a report that is meant to reestablish the government’s credibility on ground zero planning after years of what Mr. Ward himself called “politically or emotionally driven promises.”
To cover his bets, Mr. Ward presented two dates for each project: a target date and a “probabilistic” date, based on computer analysis of all the many random things that might go wrong.
Under the new timetable:
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, including the underground exhibition galleries could be completed by the first quarter of 2013, though it might be delayed until the second quarter. Much of the above-ground plaza will be ready by the third or fourth quarter of 2011. The authority did not release a budget figure for this project, but it is understood to be $610 million; $530 for the plaza and the galleries, $80 for an above-ground entrance pavilion.
The World Trade Center Transportation Hub could be completed in the fourth quarter of 2013, though it might stretch out to the second quarter of 2014. The cost is now estimated at $3.2 billion, 50 percent higher than the original budget. When it was announced in 2004, officials said the hub, which is principally a PATH terminal, would open in 2009.
One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, will be completed sometime between the first and fourth quarters of 2013, five years later than originally planned, at a budget of $3.1 billion, or about three times the original estimate.
The underground Vehicle Security Center, a series of checkpoints, ramps and roadways serving the cars and trucks coming to the trade center, can be completed in the first quarter of 2012, but no later than the third quarter of 2012. Its current cost, $633 million, is almost one-third higher than the original estimate.
The recreation of Greenwich Street, which was eliminated by the original trade center, will be completed as early as the second quarter of 2012 or as late as the fourth quarter, at a cost of $281 million, which is under the transportation hub budget. By the third quarter of 2011, Mr. Ward said, the floor of the memorial plaza will be completed, as will the two waterfalls in the voids where the twin towers stood, the parapets around the voids on which the victims’ names will be inscribed and “some landscaping.”
Because the engineering of the memorial is tied intimately to that of the transportation hub — the two projects literally overlap near Greenwich and Fulton Streets — the anticipated delays in the memorial construction could only be solved by changing the way the hub is to be built. And that posed an acute challenge for the Port Authority, since it is heavily invested in the innovative design by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
The tension between the two projects translated into late-night negotiations before Mr. Ward’s report was made public.
Perhaps most important, the discussions yielded a new “deckover” approach to construction of the transportation center’s mezzanine, which lies directly under the northeast corner of the memorial plaza. Rather than building the mezzanine from the ground up, Mr. Ward said, it will get a roof deck first, so that construction can proceed on both projects simultaneously.
“By building the roof first,” Mr. Ward said, “we have prioritized the completion of the memorial and decoupled its construction from the hub’s platform work below, thereby ensuring the memorial plaza’s completion by Sept. 11, 2011.”
With Mr. Calatrava’s cooperation, Mr. Ward said, the mezzanine itself was redesigned so that the 150-foot-long spans would no longer cantilever from enormous trusses but rest on columns. Other more conventional building methods will be used, he said, “to save time and money and reduce risk” without “forcing a massive redesign process that could have delayed the project even further.”
Another crucial engineering issue was how to permanently support the No. 1 subway tunnel, which bisects the trade center site. Mr. Ward said four choices were studied: using the existing (but temporary) pilings that currently support the tunnel while a new supporting structure is created, installing new caissons entirely, rebuilding the subway tunnel entirely or simply filling in the earth below the tunnel, thereby losing usable space for the underground portion of the trade center.
Mr. Ward said the approach of using the existing pilings turned out to be the least expensive and disruptive.
But even the forward-looking aspects of Thursday’s announcement could not squelch entirely an innate caution after years of public missteps.
“We set out milestones,” Mr. Ward said. “Now we can be held accountable. There are risks we’ll have to manage.”
The World Trade Center Memorial will not be fully open to the public in time for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It won't even be finished.
Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward made that admission Tuesday at a City Council hearing on the status of the much-delayed Ground Zero rebirth.
Ward admitted the memorial plaza will open briefly for the historic observance - then be mostly shut down for construction for "about a year."
It won't be until late in 2012, 11 years after the attacks, that visitors will at last gain full access to the heart and soul of Ground Zero.
"It would be wrong to have open access throughout the site" in the period between Sept. 11, 2011, and completion of the complex construction project, Ward said.
City Councilman Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan) pressed Ward to say when visitors could expect unimpeded access, asking, "Will any part of the site be generally open to the public to simply walk into without any prescheduling?"
Ward said that would be "unlikely."
The PA boss said the memorial plaza would open for the 10-year commemoration, which would be an epic event lasting days or weeks and drawing presidents and world leaders.
Twin waterfalls would thunder into two reflecting pools, the plaza floor would be finished and the parapets around the site would be inscribed with the names of the honored dead.
After the anniversary, below-grade construction would continue, the entrance pavilion would have to be built out, and plaza landscaping would be finalized.
Efforts would be made "to get some people onto the site," assuming safety and security issues could be addressed, Ward said. But he added, "You have to remember, it is going to be a construction site."
Joe Daniels, the president of the National September 11th Memorial & Museum, was more optimistic. "It is possible to have the entire memorial finished by the 10th anniversary, but if we can't get 100%, we'll get as close as we possibly can," Daniels said.
Meanwhile, there was a glimmer of good news as the PA said it had finally finished excavating the Church St. site of Larry Silverstein's Tower 2 and would turn it over to the developer later this week.
The agency has been paying fines of $300,000 a day since July 1, when it was supposed to hand off the site, meaning it has paid Silverstein some $29.4 million.
So much for truth in packaging. It turns out that the Port Authority's new timetable for completing the redevelopment of Ground Zero was a con job.
The document was heralded as setting out deadlines for progress on the way-over-budget, way-late project - with a commitment for finishing the 9/11 memorial by the 10th anniversary of the terror attack.
Releasing the plan last Thursday, PA Executive Director Chris Ward wrote that the agency had found "a construction solution that will allow the Memorial to open on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks."
Ward described the new scheme as "ensuring the Memorial Plaza's completion by Sept. 11, 2011," while also acknowledging that, no, he wasn't promising every bit of work - full, total, 100% - would be done by then.
On Monday, Ward described at a City Council hearing what the Port actually intends to deliver to the public and the 9/11 families: access for just a couple of weeks to a plaza, the signature waterfalls and reflecting pools and parapets inscribed with the names of the dead.
Then, the memorial will be closed again as Ground Zero returns to being a construction site for another year or so.
By any reasonable definition, this is a far cry from Gov. Paterson's objective of opening the memorial on the 10th anniversary. Nor does it jibe with Mayor Bloomberg's statement on Sunday that "having the entire memorial completed by Sept. 11, 2011 remains our ultimate goal."
The obstacle is the Port Authority's insistence on building a $3.2 billion PATH station at one corner of Ground Zero - an overly extravagant project whose engineering complexities are delaying everything else on the site.
There are cheaper, faster ways to build a fine train station, but the PA will have none of them. It wants a palace. So, exhibiting typical cost-be-damned arrogance, the agency rejiggered how to build the station so as to allow for a temporary pale imitation of a memorial at the turn of a decade.
The additional expense is estimated at $75 million if you believe the authority's numbers. Think of what that will buy: A commemoration that opens for but a couple of weeks.
The westward view at ground zero, where the framework of the south pool is under construction above the PATH tracks.
Of all the right angles that have been built at ground zero in the last three years, of all the places where steel meets steel at 90 degrees, there is no more meaningful angle right now than the one poised high over the PATH tracks near Fulton Street.
It visibly defines one corner of the north pool of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and, therefore, one corner of the outline of 1 World Trade Center — a void left in the city fabric after the attack of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Sculptors talk about how the sculpture is already in the stone and all they’re doing is chipping away at it,” said Michael Arad, the architect who won the memorial design competition in 2004, with the landscape architect Peter Walker. “This is the opposite. Our void is already there. It’s there in the sky. And we’re building around it.”
“It’s great to see the faintest contours beginning to emerge,” he said.
As is currently the practice at the trade center project, construction milestones pass quietly, with little public notice or fanfare. But they are no less important to those involved.
“To see the actual framing of the void is a major step in filling in the wound,” said Joseph C. Daniels, the president and chief executive of the memorial and museum, as he looked across ground zero on Oct. 31, toward the embryonic north pool and the pale-green steel framework that has begun to define the south pool, the site of 2 World Trade Center.
“This is the basic structure of the memorial,” Mr. Daniels said. “So it’s a big deal.”
The pools will eventually be at the bottom of two 28-foot-deep depressions in a landscaped and tree-filled plaza, marking the location of the twin towers, though not their exact outlines. (The pools will be 194 by 194 feet, or 13 feet shorter on each side than the trade center buildings.) The insides of these voids will be lined with waterfalls cascading into the pools at the bottom.
At plaza level, the names of all the victims of 9/11 and of the Feb. 26, 1993, trade center bombing will be inscribed on parapets around the perimeter of the pools.
It is not easy at first to make out the shape of the north pool’s corner against a backdrop of heavy construction, but once spotted, it is impossible to overlook. The best public viewing place is the Liberty Street pedestrian bridge, where large windows offer a commanding view of the site.
The corner of the north pool is composed chiefly of two great beams arranged perpendicularly atop a more slender steel framework. One is 52 feet long and 44 inches deep and weighs 13,104 pounds. The other is 72 feet long and 40 inches deep and weighs 42,696 pounds.
The framework below this enormous angle is set back a bit, aligning with the PATH tracks that run alongside. The uppermost corner of the north pool projects about 20 feet over the tracks.
A far larger area of the south pool, about 50 percent, will be constructed over the PATH tracks. That steel underpinning differs from the north pool and is not as instantly recognizable as part of a giant square. But steel erection goes quickly.
“The icing on the cake is the steel coming up,” said Lou Mendes, the vice president of the memorial for design and construction. “People will look at it and say, ‘Oh, my God — construction’s started.’ ”
No one wants the pace to flag, since the goal is to open the memorial plaza by Sept. 11, 2011. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the chairman of the memorial, said through a spokesman, “The progress we’ve made is heartening, but it’s as important as ever that we continue to push to ensure the target dates are met and, where possible, moved up.”
With the prospect of a long recession, questions will be raised about the feasibility of five enormous office towers around ground zero, including the two tallest in the city.
The commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent almost two stormy hours behind closed doors on Nov. 6 talking about contracts at the site.
“The only consensus that came out,” said Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman, “is that the memorial and the transportation hub are public amenities that ought to receive a priority in terms of getting built.”
Meanwhile, the designers can relish the sight of the life-size, three-dimensional realization of plans that they have been battling over for years.
“Despite all the public negativity, great things have been accomplished, and we’re beginning to see the fruits of that work,” said Steven M. Davis of Davis Brody Bond Aedas, the architects of the museum. “The drawings and concepts are transforming into the built project, and it will continue to develop and materialize before our eyes.