May 18 - 24, 2007
Look out below! Billions worth of building down at the W.T.C.
By Josh Rogers
The Port’s leaders said buying steel and concrete has become like buying in a commodities market, and a nationwide construction slowdown does not help prices because they are competing with China and the rest of the world for materials.
Construction contracts for the Freedom Tower, which the Port is paying Silverstein to build, are about 50 percent completed
so it is safer from cost overruns than the memorial. More and more steel is rising from the ground on the 1,776-foot tower, expected to become the world’s tallest building.
Shorris said progress on the site is exactly where it should be, but there are three steps needed before the reality reaches the public. The first has been taken — getting actual work underway. The second will come shortly — having cranes below street level — visible to passersby. The third should come next year when much of the site will be built up to street level and people can monitor the work themselves.
The Port is a bi-state agency created by Congress and is also responsible for the PATH commuter lines and many of the region’s tunnels and bridges. When Shorris was asked how much of his time he is spending on the W.T.C., he quickly said “ a lot,” before mentioning the man who hired him a few months ago to run the Port, Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
“There’s $16 billion worth of construction on 16 acres and we have a lot of emotional ties because we lost so many people…,” he said referring to the 84 Port employees killed on Sept. 11, 2001. “The governor asks about it constantly. Eliot’s been on the site a few times.”
By tradition, the New Jersey governor selects the Port’s chairperson and the New York governor picks the executive director.
Last year, the Port and city were concerned that Silverstein did not have the money to build the entire site and the agency renegotiated its long-term lease with the developer. Silverstein agreed to give up control of the two least valuable parcels — the Freedom Tower site and Tower 5 — some of the insurance money, and some of the tax-free Liberty Bonds, in exchange for retaining the rights to the three office sites and retail space on Church St. The Port is building the eastern “bathtub” slurry wall and must have the Tower 3 and 4 sites ready for Silverstein by Jan. 1, or pay him $300,000 a day while it finishes up.
Shorris said they are on track to have the sites ready right on time, which means one setback could trigger expensive fines. “That’s what we lose a lot of sleep over — delivering the site on time,” he said.