Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 163

Did Rudy cave to business pressure to reopen parts of downtown despite knowing that the air was still full of toxic materials. That's the allegation being put forth in conjunction with a memo to that effect.
The city reopened portions of downtown just weeks after 9/11, despite knowing the air was toxic - because of pressure from businesses, an explosive memo reveals.

"The mayor [Rudy Giuliani] is under pressure from building owners . . . to open more of the city," a Health Department official wrote in Oct. 6, 2001, according to CBS News.

The city's own Department of Environmental Protection was "uncomfortable" with opening the area - but was overruled by the mayor, CBS said.
I know that I walked through that very area on numerous occasions while commuting from Staten Island to work in the West Village. The air had a noxious smell - a metallic odor and the stench of death was present for months until the fires at Ground Zero were finally extinguished in December 2001. I've been noting the health issues among Ground Zero workers for some time now, as my most recent posting on the subject, the New Liquidators recaps.

Designs have been unveiled for the three office buildings being built along Church Avenue (East side of the WTC site). The designers involved include Sir Norman Foster, Richard Rogers (whose participation in an anti-Israel symposium garnered attention when he became involved in the Javits Center expansion project), and Fumihiko Maki. The buildings will be 1,350 feet, 1,255 feet, and 945 feet, respectively. Curbed has instant reaction - Bling!, Skeletal, and Blah - respectively, but is impressed with the group overall. Once again, Norman Foster delivers and his design is probably superior to that of the Freedom Tower itself. Rogers produced a building akin to those he designed elsewhere, and Maki's design attempts to evoke Yamasaki's original design of the Twin Towers, but I think it falls short. I think Foster's design will actually become the signature structure at the site, and reinforces my view that Foster should have been put in charge of the Master Plan at Ground Zero from the start (that job went to Daniel Libeskind, who had no experience with large scale projects such as the 16 acre WTC rebuilding).

It should also be noted that Tower Two (the Foster design) is slated to be as tall as the original towers themselves at 1,350 feet. It's also interesting to point out how the design places towers two and three on either side of the Calatrava designed transit hub. Does this placement accentuate or deemphasize the Calatrava design? I'm not sure on either count, but it could make for interesting discussion.

All in all, it looks like Silverstein has managed to get interesting structures commissioned and designed. Good on him, and the real estate market downtown shows serious strength, which is good news for the construction of millions of square feet of class A office space in Lower Manhattan.

Renditions of the buildings can be found here.

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