Friday, 28 April 2006

Construction begins at Twin Towers site

By Christine Kearney
Bulldozers rumbled into a giant pit on Thursday to begin building a new skyscraper to replace the World Trade Center in an act New York's governor said symbolized the city's comeback from the September 11 attacks.

Work on the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan began a day after developer Larry Silverstein and the land owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, resolved long-running acrimonious disputes over money, security and design.

The 1,776-foot (540-meter) tower will be among the tallest in the world.

"We are not going to just build low in the face of a war against terror," New York Gov. George Pataki said. "We are going to soar to new heights and reclaim New York's skyline."

The site will include three other high rises plus a residential tower that will surround a memorial, museum and cultural center dedicated to what relatives of the September 11 victims consider a sacred site.

Construction is scheduled to be finished by 2011 or 2012.

Pataki symbolically laid the first stone on July 4, 2004, just ahead of the Republican National Convention in New York. The moderate Republican is considering a run for U.S. president and his legacy from three terms as governor will depend largely on his stewardship of rebuilding "Ground Zero."

Just weeks ago the Port Authority had labeled Silverstein greedy but that sentiment was put aside Thursday.

"What is so spectacular is the opportunity to come together as we have in the last few days for the purpose of rebuilding the World Trade Center," Silverstein said. "It's of great significance to me and to all New Yorkers."


The 82-floor building's observation deck will reach 1,362 feet with a glass parapet at 1,368 feet (415 meters) -- the heights of the original Twin Towers, which were destroyed by suicide hijackers in two passenger planes.

Its decorative spire will top out at 1,776 feet, a figure to match the year the American colonies declared independence from Britain.

Once envisioned with a swirling design evocative of the Statue of Liberty, the project was redrawn after New York police said the building would be vulnerable to attack by truck bombs.

Now it will have a 200-foot (60-meter) base coated in titanium and stainless panels meant to withstand the blast of a truck bomb similar to the one Islamist militants used to attack the Twin Towers in 1993, killing six and wounding 1,000.

"It's a simpler, cleaner and iconic piece," said architect David Childs, who redesigned Daniel Libeskind's original. "It's a much better representation of a great monument."

Critics fear the Freedom Tower will repeat the mistakes of the Twin Towers, which opened as a speculative venture in 1970 that glutted Lower Manhattan with office space, but more bullish analysts see the current strong market for commercial office space continuing for years.

"Here in New York it's always feast or famine," Silverstein said. "It's going to be fascinating to see how the industry responds."



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