Grounded at Ground Zero
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Those who were concerned that a private developer would botch the job at ground zero appear to have misplaced their fears. Larry Silverstein is charging ahead with his plans for the three towers he will build under April’s compromise agreement with nary a peep of delay or complaint. Not so the Port Authority, whose chairman, Anthony Coscia, yesterday told a breakfast sponsored by Crain’s that the Authority may yet decide that it can’t get enough leases on the Freedom Tower, in which case it will change the design.
Also up for redesign, as the fifth anniversary of the attacks draws near, is the World Trade Center Memorial. Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg are expecting a report this week from Frank Sciame, a construction executive who was hired to figure out how to build the memorial for half a billion dollars as opposed to the billion dollars that cost estimates soared to for a pair of pits.
The Freedom Tower, created in response to public feedback that an iconic skyline element be created to replace the World Trade Center, has always been more justifiable from a symbolic than economic standpoint. It is at a corner of ground zero farther from public transportation than other buildings planned for the site, has a footprint that wouldn’t match the needs of many potential tenants, and, at 1,776 feet tall, would stoke fears that it might become another target for terrorists.
Now, six weeks after wresting control of the site from Mr. Silverstein, the Authority appears to have reached exactly the same conclusion Mr. Silverstein eventually reached – the Freedom Tower will be a tough sell to anyone but the government, and even government tenants may not be forthcoming. In which case, an Authority official told the New York Observer’s Real Estate Web log yesterday, a redesign could include shortening the tower.
There’s nothing wrong with any builder adjusting a structure to meet market conditions. But in the midst of a citywide boom in commercial and residential construction, delays and doubts have afflicted the rebuilding at ground zero – even with billions of dollars in insurance proceeds and federal assistance to help fund the project. It’s yet another reminder that the private sector and free markets are better builders than politicians and their appointees, no matter how well-intentioned.