Monday, July 07, 2008

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 38

The Port Authority has completely botched things to date, but starting from scratch or trying to rebuild the towers means still more delays and further costs that spiral out of control.

Of course, anyone who's been reading my blog for any length of time has known this.

None of this should come as a surprise. None of this should be shocking.

Still, the revelations from the past week are getting people to look at the site anew. The Post thinks the plan should be scrapped altogether.

I think that's only going to add to the delays.

The Port Authority answers to the governors of NY and NJ, and Gov. Corzine has pretty much given NY a free hand to handle things since Ground Zero is in Manhattan, but Gov. Corzine has been carping of late that the costs are going to start hitting NJ projects so he might want a bigger say.

Governor Paterson has ordered the Port Authority to conduct a top-down review of Ground Zero costs, which is a start, but it will only detail what we've known all along - the foot dragging and delays have sent the costs skyrocketing.

Larry Silverstein is the only person to get something rebuilt, and he was pushed aside by the Port Authority when they claimed he was being obstructionist. The facts speak for themselves. 7WTC stands, while Ground Zero remains a pit.

The Freedom Tower barely pokes above street level - a situation that has been unchanged for months. Look across the street at the Goldman Sachs building, and they built from scratch a building topped off a few weeks ago, even though it started well after Ground Zero.

Cost overruns continue every day work gets delayed.

The Port Authority did a tremendous job to get the temporary WTC station rebuilt in an amazingly short time, but since then, the Port Authority has lost focus and the bureaucratic mess has dragged on. The Port Authority isn't alone. The LMDC bears serious responsibility for the failures as well.

The delays pile up when you start to take into consideration that two other damaged buildings have yet to be dismantled - Fiterman Hall to the North, and Deutsche Bank to the South. The Deutsche Bank building is the key - that has to be demolished before the transportation center and screening center can be built to accommodate the bus and truck traffic to the site. It remains a hulking black blot on the skyline because the LMDC botched the demolition - resulting in two dead firefighters and several other serious injuries. Now, the EPA and other bureaucrats have decreed how the building is to be decontaminated and deconstructed, which pushes the timeline back further.

The memorial and all of the problems with the site go back to a woeful master plan done by Daniel Libeskind and chosen by Gov. Pataki despite better designs from Sir Norman Foster that would have honored the Twin Towers and given the site a sense of place and memory. That includes the idea to reintegrate the Ground Zero superblock into the street grid, which means that the space that can be devoted to memorials or office space are severely limited by running streets through the site - streets that will likely never be opened to car and truck traffic because of security concerns.

The best memorial would be one that sees the site built. Right now, we've got nothing but the second temporary PATH terminal and an open wound. 7WTC is built, but that's overshadowed by the empty sky.

While one can pine for rebuilding the Twin Towers, it simply isn't feasible. As Steve Cuozzo points out, Silverstein is ready to build the rest of the office towers at the site, and plans are ready for that to happen. The Port Authority has to get out of the way to make it happen. The Port Authority is already trying to unload the Freedom Tower onto a private developer - even as it forced Silverstein to give up that right just a few short years ago.

The problems at Ground Zero are largely the non-commercial areas - the transit hub, the memorial, Fiterman Hall, Deutsche Bank, and the Freedom Tower.

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