May 18 - 24, 2007
Look out below! Billions worth of building down at the W.T.C.
By Josh Rogers
When Downtown Express last visited the site in August, the 175-ton “Survivors’ Stairway” sat alone in open space. Last week, it was surrounded by equipment. Plate said there are three or four different construction projects within 10 feet of the stairs. He didn’t say it was slowing down the work but did say “we need to get it out of the way.”
The stairs once led from the W.T.C. plaza to Vesey St. and some survivors ran down them to escape the trade center complex on Sept. 11. The L.M.D.C. had proposed breaking up the stairs to save a remnant for the memorial museum and incorporate a piece in the Tower 2 entrance. Gov. Spitzer objected to the L.M.D.C. plan and his Empire State Development Corp. has been searching for a site to store the stairs intact.
Stairway proponents argue that since it is the only public W.T.C. remnant that is still on the site and was the last leg of survivors’ run to safety, it should be preserved entirely. Opponents counter that just the cost of moving it intact from and then back to the site would be over $2 million and that displaying it on the memorial plaza would create the mistaken impression that it was damaged by the collapsing towers. The stairs were damaged during the cleanup of the site.
Errol Cockfield, a spokesperson for Empire State, said the agency is moving quickly toward a decision but he did not know if it would be made in a matter of weeks. He did not comment on whether Battery Park City’s Site 2B, which residents hope will be the site of a new school, is under consideration to store the stairs.
Sayar Lonial, a senior aide to Councilmember Alan Gerson, told C.B. 1 members Tuesday that “it sounds like they will be putting the stairs on Site 2B.” He said E.S.D.C. has given assurances the stairway won’t remain on the site long enough to interfere with school construction. Lonial said he’s inclined to believe the promise because unlike the Pataki administration, Spitzer’s aides “don’t just say things to make us happy.”
Gerson and Spitzer are Democrats and Pataki is a Republican.
The temporary PATH commuter station will remain open at the W.T.C. while contractors continue to build the $2 billion commuter-subway station designed by the “poet of train stations,” Santiago Calatrava. Keeping it open during construction will require two more temporary entrances before the station opens at the end of 2009.
Next month, the Port’s contractors will demolish the station’s overhang awning entrance and recycle the valuable materials, which will help defray the project’s costs. The new entrance will move about 50 feet to the south and will stay there until December when the third temporary entrance will be built on Vesey St., on a site that is slated to get an arts center.
Is the June move the big thing Plate’s focused on now?
“There are a gazillion ‘big things,’” he said. “That’s the technical name.”