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As 9/11 Anniversary Approaches, NY1 Looks At Status Of Rebuilding Effort

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The past year has seen plans move forward in re-developing the World Trade Center site, including the start of work on the Freedom Tower. In the following report, NY1’s Roger Clark takes a look at the progress as we close in on the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

It will replace the hole in New York's skyline left since September 11th, 2001. A 20-ton slab of granite was placed at the World Trade Center site on the Fourth of July, the beginnings of what will become the Freedom Tower. At 1,776 feet, it will be the world's tallest building.

“Everything we do at Ground Zero is a memorial, is a tribute to the heroes we lost,” said Governor George Pataki.

Plans for the tower were first unveiled in December, the result of a sometimes contentious relationship between site master planner Daniel Libeskind and David Childs, the architect appointed by site leaseholder Larry Silverstein. Both downplayed reports that at one point the two weren't even speaking to each other.

“I don't think we are going into practice or partnership,” said Libeskind. “It was a tough struggle, and yet that's part of the challenge.”

“It must be iconic, simple and pure in it's form, a memorable for mthat would proclaim the resiliency and the spirit of our democracy,” said Childs.

More tension developed behind the scenes after Libeskind decided to sue Silverstein, saying he had been shortchanged for his work on the project.

Officials said the dispute would have no effect on the timetable for construction. Completion is scheduled for 2009.

Meanwhile, other parts of the site were moving ahead, literally. In November, PATH train service resumed as a temporary terminal re-opened for the first time since the attacks. For many, it was a bittersweet return to where the Twin Towers once stood.

“It was emotional. When you look in and there's nothing, what was there then is not here now, and it's a bit depressing,” said one commuter. “But on the same side, you know that it's going to be revived.”

Part of that revival will be a transit hub for which plans were also unveiled to replace the temporary PATH station. It will feature a retractable, wing-like roof, lots of open space, and translucent walkways to allow natural light to penetrate 60 feet down to the tracks.

An underground concourse would connect riders to the MTA's planned Fulton Street Transit Center, which will eventually link all the downtown subway lines.

The hub was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who said, “The idea of a child releasing a bird and making a gift is one of the models of our design.”

“When you see the model, 'Wow' is the first word that's just got to come to your mind,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The $$2 billion project is expected to be finished by 2009, although some of it will be open earlier.

The hub will allow visitors to reach another important part of the site, where four cultural institutions were picked to fill the arts space designated there. The Joyce International Dance Center, the Freedom Center, the Signature Theatre, and the Drawing Center have all been
offered space.

The institutions will provide their own arts programming, and will host other downtown cultural events throughout the year, including the TriBeCa Film Festival.

“They will nurture and feature a wide spectrum of our artistic works that, taken together, will showcase the breadth and depth of the human spirit,” said Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Chairman John Whitehead.

But of all the projects slated for the site, nothing has brought with it more emotion than the planned memorial. A 13-member jury chose a final design after a design competition with more than 5,200 entries. The jury's choice is called “Reflecting Absence,” featuring two pools floating above the Twin Tower footprints, pine trees, and a paved stone plaza.

“It is with regret that I cannot offer any design that satisfies everyone, but I hope that what I am suggesting will be a way that minimizes the pain that others are still feeling,” said memorial designer Michael Arad.

Arad decided to list the names of Trade Center victims randomly, but listing rescue workers with the insignia of their agency, something a group of firefighters were pushing for. Family members who closely followed the design process were initially pleased with a late revision in the plan, which gave access to exposed bedrock 70 feet below grade at the tower footprints.

But last month, the Coalition of 9/11 Families filed suit against the Port Authority and the LMDC in an attempt to halt construction at the site. It wants to stop any building until the agencies meet the requirements for preservation at the site, particularly at the footprints.

The coalition charges that officials never consulted with the National Park Service before construction began.

“To this day there is normally a few inches of dirt that obstruct those physical remains. The dirt has never been cleared off so that the remains of the footprints could be properly recorded so they could be evaluated to determine how much of them can be preserved as redevelopment moves forward,” said the coalition’s Anthony Gardener.

The Port Authority and LMDC released a joint statement addressing some of the families' concerns saying: "We have committed to preserving the original entrance from the Trade Center to the E subway line; we will identify sections of the PATH platforms that cover Trade Center footprints with appropriate architectural treatment. We will preserve artifacts from the remnants of the Trade Center parking garage; and we will uncover the remnants of box beams at the base of the Trade Center site and provide access to victims' family members to view them."

As this part of the process unfolds, it's just a reminder that three years after the disaster, the rebuilding of the WTC site remains an emotional issue, and likely will be one for years to come.

- Roger Clark

To get a better feel for just what has been accomplished and what is still on the horizon for the WTC site, NY1 invited architects Daniel Libeskind, David Childs, Michael Arad, developer Larry Silverstein, and leaders from the LMDC and Port Authority to share their views exclusively with us. It is their first interview as a group.

“We all have an enormous amount of responsibility to accomplish a rebuild that future generations will have an opportunity to look back on and say, ÎThey did a terrible job,’ or, ÎThey did a spectacular job,’” said Silverstein.

To see more of this exclusive interview, tune in to “New York Tonight” every night this week at 8 p.m.

NY1 will also air the interview in its entirety here on Saturday night following a special edition of “New York Tonight.”

This Saturday, NY1 will bring you live coverage of all the events surrounding the third anniversary of the terror attacks, beginning with the city's official memorial service. It starts at 8:46 a.m., and NY1 will bring it to you in its entirety.

We'll also wrap up the day's events on a special edition of “New York Tonight” live from the World Financial Center Saturday at 8 p.m. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP