Plans for Ground Zero Slow to Take Shape in Glass and Steel
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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Faith Lapidus. This week, five years after the September eleventh attacks, we examine what is being done to rebuild Ground Zero in New York.
In April, workers in Lower Manhattan finally broke ground for a high-rise office building called the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is at the center of plans to redevelop the seven-hectare area now known as Ground Zero.
Ground Zero is the name for where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood until September eleventh, two thousand one. Members of al-Qaida flew hijacked passenger airplanes into the towers. More than two thousand seven hundred people were killed as the buildings collapsed and disappeared from the New York skyline.
The Twin Towers, completed in the early nineteen seventies, were among the tallest buildings in the world. The Freedom Tower will also be one of the tallest buildings, at a cost estimated at more than two thousand million dollars.
Current plans call for occupancy in two thousand eleven.
The building known as Seven World Trade Center was also destroyed on September eleventh. Four other buildings were torn down later because of damage.
So far, only Seven World Trade Center has been rebuilt. The new high-rise building opened in May.
Last week, designs for three other office buildings were made public. Money problems and disputes among public officials, developers and designers, among others, have slowed progress at Ground Zero.
(SOUND from September 11, 2001)
In all, the attacks five years ago killed almost three thousand people. Islamic terrorists also crashed a plane into the Pentagon. The Defense Department headquarters is across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. A fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers revolted against the hijackers.
Crews working seven days a week repaired the damage to the Pentagon. Some office workers were back in less than a year in the area that had been struck. Work on a memorial to the victims at the Pentagon began this June.
Many New Yorkers are angry that the huge hole at Ground Zero has yet to be filled with new buildings. They say it has taken too long to rebuild this economically important part of America's financial capital.
But the job of planning has also been huge. Many agencies are involved. And so are many individuals. They include survivors of Nine-Eleven, family members of the victims and people who live near Ground Zero.
Arguments about safety and appearance have at times been highly emotional.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the World Trade Center property. But developer Larry Silverstein signed a ninety-nine year lease to operate the World Trade Center. He did so in July of two thousand one, just weeks before the attacks. Since then he has paid millions of dollars in rent each month for the Twin Towers and other buildings that no longer exist.
Mr. Silverstein was able to rebuild Seven World Trade Center, which he owned. But payments from insurance policies did not provide enough money to rebuild all of Ground Zero.
In April, Mr. Silverstein agreed to a proposal that aims to make sure there is enough money to complete the project. If this complex agreement becomes final, it could represent a big step toward restoring all of Ground Zero.
The agreement calls for Mr. Silverstein to give control of the Freedom Tower to the Port Authority. The Port Authority then would pay him to direct the building of the tower. The agency also would guarantee occupants for the Freedom Tower. Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority would divide responsibility for other buildings on the site.
The city and state of New York and insurance payments for the Twin Towers are to help finance the Freedom Tower.
Mr. Silverstein recently announced that more than eight hundred tons of steel is being produced in Luxembourg to provide supports for the Freedom Tower. Kenneth Ringler leads the Port Authority. Mr. Ringler said the steel supports will go up early next year. He said this would show the public that work is moving along.
Architects competed to design a plan to restore Ground Zero. In two thousand three, Daniel Libeskind of Studio Libeskind was chosen. Some of his best known buildings are museums, including the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Mr. Libeskind proposed plans for the Freedom Tower as part of his master plan for Ground Zero. But his plans called for separate architects for the buildings. That idea was criticized. Some people also said his vision of the Freedom Tower was too large and costly.
Back in July of two thousand one, Larry Silverstein had hired architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Mr. Childs had been hired to make some changes to the existing World Trade Center. Later, Mr. Silverstein asked Mr. Childs to help work on the plans for the Freedom Tower, after the criticism of the Libeskind proposals.
Architects Libeskind and Childs worked together in the second half of two thousand three. But it was not a happy partnership. The design process was reorganized. David Childs became the architect of the Freedom Tower. In the spring of two thousand five, police officials raised concerns about the security of the proposed building.
Mr. Childs hurried to make changes. Within just a few weeks, the new plans for the Freedom Tower were presented. That was in June of last year. David Childs set the building farther back from the street, to leave more room for a public plaza area. Being farther back from traffic would also provide more security against a terrorist attack from the street.
The Freedom Tower is expected to rise from a sixty-one meter high base. There are also plans for extensive fire protection systems as well as wide stairways to make an escape to safety easier in an emergency.
Most of Mr. Libeskind's ideas were gone from the new design for the Freedom Tower, such as windmills to help provide energy. But the new plans kept his proposal for a total height of about five hundred forty-one meters, including a needle-like spire on top.
With the spire, the building will be one thousand seven hundred seventy-six feet tall. Seventeen seventy-six is an important number to Americans. It was the year the United States declared its independence from Britain.
The Freedom Tower will have office space, restaurants and other businesses, as well as an observation deck for visitors. Plans also call for a Beacon of Freedom -- a powerful light to shine from the spire.
In late July, New York Governor George Pataki announced good news for the project. He said the General Services Administration, a federal agency, is expected to occupy a large share of the office space.
The plans for Ground Zero include a memorial, a museum and a visitors’ center. The memorial will honor the victims of September eleventh and of the nineteen ninety-three bombing of the Twin Towers.
The memorial is called "Reflecting Absence." The design by Michael Arad and Peter Walker won an international competition. Their design places reflecting pools and waterfalls around where the towers stood.
But the project to build a memorial has faced design and financing delays. It has also incited some of the most emotional disputes in the debate over what to do with Ground Zero.
Crews are now working on support columns for the memorial. The work stopped for a while in the summer when giving for the project slowed and costs were increasing. A re-design was ordered, and the Port Authority has now take responsibility for the work.
The goal is to open the World Trade Center memorial on September eleventh, two thousand nine.
Another memorial will open much sooner opposite the World Trade Center site. A museum of memories called the Tribute Center is to welcome the public beginning September eighteenth. Four rooms in the center tell the story of the Twin Towers from their first days through their last.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Mario Ritter. Transcripts and audio files of our programs can be downloaded at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Faith Lapidus. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.