The Seven Blunders Of Ground Zero
July 6, 2008 -- Problems? They have a few. Here are seven factors that led the Port Authority last week to scrap its timetable for rebuilding Ground Zero - and that may explain why, by 2011, a decade after 9/11, the site could still be a hole in the ground:
1 The design competition: The Lower Manhattan Development Corp.'s first World Trade Center design competition, with six plans culled from thousands of submissions, was a failure, forcing it to start the process all over again. Not until Feb. 26, 2003, did the agency finally select Daniel Libeskind's plan. The delays in picking a plan added as much as a year to getting the project started.
2 Unrealistic architecture: The Freedom Tower, rising to 1,776 feet, turned out to be one of the most vexing architectural elements of the plan, with more than two years elapsing between its initial design and a final plan. Designed by Libeskind, and later a collaboration with architect David Childs, the tower - with its off-center spire, rooftop gardens and wind turbines - proved too difficult to build. By June 2005, prompted by NYPD concerns over security, the entire design was replaced. Despite the laying of a cornerstone on July 4, 2004, construction of the tower didn't begin until April 2006. Its completion date was last set at 2012.
3 Bickering over the memorial: Once the decision was made on how much space at the WTC would be devoted to a memorial, and following an intense design competition won by architect Michael Arad, costs for the project skyrocketed to $1 billion. Outraged by the cost overruns, Mayor Bloomberg intervened, and a massive overhaul of the memorial was ordered by Gov. George Pataki to slash the cost to about $510 million.
4 The Silverstein vs. Bloomberg feud: In early 2006, with barely any progress made, open warfare erupted between Ground Zero developer Larry Silverstein and Mayor Bloomberg, who accused Silverstein of being unable to complete the rebuilding. The feud led to bitter and protracted negotiations, which ultimately shifted principal control of the project back to the WTC's owner, the PA. Silverstein agreed to retain control of three office towers, while sharing some of his insurance proceeds with the PA.
5 A flawed hub: Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the wing-like train station ran into serious trouble last year when the PA announced that the project could exceed its $2.2 billion estimate by more than $1 billion. Engineers have been working to cut costs, but the delays have affected almost all the other WTC projects.
6 Insurance settlements: Despite court decisions ordering them to pay $4.6 billion to Silverstein, who was the leaseholder on the site, the major insurance carriers dragged their feet for years. Not until May 2007, following pressure from Gov. Eliot Spitzer, did the insurers finally pay up.
7 Unfinished search for bodies: After the WTC-site cleanup was declared complete in May 2002, construction crews began turning up large quantities of human remains as rebuilding work began in earnest in 2006. The discovery of remains so long after the cleanup was done slowed rebuilding for months.
Cost of 9/11 memorial and museum at Ground Zero expected to hit $1 billion
August 15, 2008 -- The cost of the September 11 memorial and museum at Ground Zero is expected to soar past $1 billion. That's a hefty 65% increase over the $610 million price tag that planners have repeatedly cited for the last two years. Budget-busting delays on other interrelated projects at the 16-acre site have jacked up the cost of the National Sept. 11th Memorial & Museum and yanked back the timetable for completion, insiders say. The bottom line: The museum may not open until 2013 or 2014, and it will take a miracle to fully open the memorial plaza that will honor nearly 3,000 innocents slaughtered at the World Trade Center in time for the 10th anniversary in 2011. Several survivors of the terror attack and relatives of the dead are starting to wonder if they'll even be around for the ribbon cuttings. "I'm 73, and I'm not sure I'll live long enough to see the memorial open," said Jack Lynch, who helped carry the body of his firefighter son, Michael, (Engine 40), out of the rubble of the south tower. "Lots of older people who lost loved ones are simply not going to make it." Sekou Siby, who worked as a cook at Windows on the World, where 73 workers died, said, "We don't understand the cost overruns or the delays. All we understand is there's a big expensive hole in the ground where a memorial should be." Asked about the $1 billion sticker price, Stephen Sigmund, the Port Authority's chief spokesman, declined to address the cost specifics. At stake is Reflecting Absence, the heart and soul of Ground Zero, where cascading waterfalls will thunder into two massive pools in the footprints of the twin towers and a subterranean museum will display 9/11 artifacts and relate the horrors of the day. The issue of who will pay - and how much - flared up at a Port Authority board meeting yesterday when Chairman Anthony Coscia was asked about a jump in the price of building the 8-acre remembrance. Noting that the agency is already ponying up $150 million for the memorial's infrastructure, plus a $45 million contingency fund, he slammed the door on providing more cash. The $195 million, Coscia said, is the "total sum and finality of our financial commitment to the project." Asked about Coscia's comments, Lynn Rasic, a vice president of the memorial, said, "If there are additional costs, we would expect to work with the Port Authority, which is managing the construction, to minimize them and identify funding to cover them." Where does the money come from? The memorial has raised $350 million, including $70 million for planning and development; the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has kicked in $317.4 million, including a $45 million reserve fund; the Empire State Development Corp. has coughed up another $80 million. Add in the Port Authority's $195 million and the tally is $942.4 million so far. The $1 billion threshold is crossed because the original budget was based on completing the project by 2009, and skyrocketing prices for steel, concrete and crude oil will force up costs by $25 million to $65 million for each year of delay.