Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 169

Yesterday's commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks also coincided with news reports about a deal struck to resume construction on the National 9/11 Museum, which had been in limbo since the Port Authority and Memorial Foundation fought over who was responsible for construction costs.

The Port Authority claimed that the Foundation owed it $300 million, but ended up settling for $17 million instead. The Port Authority will also supposedly figure out a way to find another $150 million in cost savings, but who knows how that will happen when the Port Authority has seen its construction costs soar towards double their initial estimates for work done at the site. Why did the Port Authority hold up construction for a year if it was willing to settle for $17 million (which is a drop in the bucket in its multibillion dollar budget). The NY Post editorial page has similar questions. That's a billion dollar question as the agency continues to show itself as incapable of controlling costs or making prudent business decisions to manage the site reconstruction.

Everything at the site has cost far more than originally anticipated and taken far longer to complete than hoped.

Work on the Vehicle Security Center has been progressing, and new details have emerged about its street-level design and the incorporation of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Fritz Koenig's The Sphere sculpture figure prominently on the site that is immediately to the south of the 9/11 Memorial below Liberty Street.
Now, the steel latticework of the VSC’s truck ramp is clearly visible from nearby towers. In addition to being the entrance and exit for deliveries, the center of the doughnut-shaped ramp will also support the 60 by 60 foot church sanctuary. Steve Plate, the Port’s director of construction, said work on the park will begin this time next year. AECOM is designing an open space that will swell approximately 30 feet above the Liberty Street entrance to the VSC, creating a man-made hill on the south side of the World Trade Center site. State of the art security, engineered by Liberty Security Partners, will allow all vehicles to be x-rayed on their way in.

The church sanctuary will rise another 56 feet above Liberty Street, a full 78 feet above the sidewalk. Church architect Nicholas P. Koutsomitis said that the Port stipulated that the church not rise above the September 11 Memorial Museum’s roof plane. An additional emergency exit will drop Cedar Street below grade and into the VSC complex.

Fritz Koenig’s Sphere for Plaza Fountain, which sustained substantial damage on 9/11 and now sits in Battery Park, appears destined for the VSC site as well. It appears prominently in the renderings, and Koutsomitis confirmed that the sculpture will be included in the new park.
The Sphere has been a particularly contentious issue. It was recovered from Ground Zero after the attacks, damaged but mostly intact and it became a symbol from the attacks. It was temporarily placed in Battery Park City, but that site is now being developed so an alternative site was proposed within the WTC Memorial. The Port Authority and Memorial Foundation balked by claiming that the site couldn't support the bulk of the statute, but it now appears that the Sphere will figure prominently in the garden area between West Street and the church that will be constructed atop the VSC.

I'm heartened to see that the Sphere will be placed in a location of significance considering its iconic status and relevance to the WTC site.

Meanwhile, at least a portion of the VSC site may be sold to the Port Authority by the LMDCC and the Port Authority will turn over ownership of the memorial and museum to the memorial foundation.

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