The Real Deal New York

Five things you probably didn’t know about the WTC rebuilding

Documentary “16 Acres” explores the reasons behind a decade-plus of construction delays

May 15, 2014 02:30PM
By Mark Maurer

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World Trade Center site in “16 Acres” (Inset: Larry Silverstein and George Pataki)

The redevelopment of the World Trade Center project in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has been a long and arduous process, beset with delay after delay. Safety concerns, design changes, the prioritization of Transportation Hub and land disputes all played a role in the slow go. The documentary “16 Acres” sits down developer Larry Silverstein, Lower Manhattan Development Council’s Roland Betts and Mayor Bloomberg and former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey executive director Kenneth Ringler to break down the timeline of obstacles.

The film, poignant and concise, played the festival circuit in 2012, and was released on Netflix late last month. Earlier this week, New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo moderated a panel at 7WTC with director Richard Hankin and several of the film’s talking heads such as WTC Properties president Janno Lieber and architecture critic Philip Nobel. About two years later, not much has changed. One World Trade Center is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of this year.

Here are some details that the film illuminated — and that you may not know:

1. Design of the WTC memorial is based on a mine

Michael Arad, the architect behind the World Trade Center Memorial, said his design was inspired by a quarry in South Orange, N.J. The 9/11 Memorial Museum is set to finally open May 21.

2. The cornerstone is in Long Island in a box

The cornerstone that in 2004 was intended to mark the groundbreaking of “Freedom Tower” was later moved into a plywood box and now sits in the office of Hauppauge, Long Island-based Innovative Stone, the company that manufactured it, according to the film. The cornerstone’s inscription read, “To honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom.”

3. The height of the building is symbolic

Everything about architect Daniel Libeskind’s original angular design of the tower has been changed except one detail: the symbolic height of 1,776 feet. Libeskind had won a competition in 2002 to design a master plan for the site. However, he also wanted to design the structure, but Larry Silverstein preferred Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect David Childs. Two years later, Libeskind sued the developer for $800,000 in unpaid fees for his initial work. The lawsuit resulted in a $370,000 settlement, reports said.

4. “Freedom Tower” was scrapped due to marketing concerns

Then-Governor George Pataki, who coined the building name “Freedom Tower,” may have been the only one to approve it prior the public announcement in 2003. Esquire writer Scott Raab said: “I’ve asked people close to the governor, ‘Was that political calculation or spur of the moment, naming it the Freedom Tower?’” The best answer I’ve heard is, “It had been discussed, but no one had really signed off on it or was sure of it until it came out of his mouth during the speech.” The Port Authority renamed the building One World Trade Center in 2009 amid marketing concerns.

5. The developer of the collapsed Twin Towers put the loss at $7.5 billion

After the 2001 attacks, Larry Silvestein filed insurance claims for $7.5 billion, double the amount of coverage he took out of the complex. He and the Port Authority received about $4.1 billion in 2004. Last year, a judge limited the developer to $2.8 million in possible payouts from litigation that was ongoing, reports said.

  • JohnACritic

    Why don’t we hear anything about the real estate tax cap on the WTC. That has been in existence since the first WTC. It is $25,000,000. The city is being shortchanged. The tax should be at least 3 or 4 times that amount. Just another way to cheat the public.

    • Char4Dew

      Whatever we do hear has — to do with reality. it is all BS.
      Silverstein bought the towers 6 weeks prior to 9/11 insured it with Terrorist insurance SURE!!!! And “Pulled it” a technical team for demolition. You want to talk tax???? I want to talk 3000 LIVES :(

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