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The P.A.'s Ward Calls the Twin Towers Just Real Estate

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:29 pm    Post subject: The P.A.'s Ward Calls the Twin Towers Just Real Estate
From Mon Feb 02, 2009 3:00 am to Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:59 am (included)
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February 2, 2009

Joint Statement – For Immediate Release

The Twin Towers II Redevelopment Plan for the World Trade Center


The Twin Towers Alliance


Contact: Margaret Donovan | 212-568-0207 | rebuild@twintowersalliance.com

On Friday, Port Authority Commissioner Christopher Ward dismissed the notion that the Twin Towers were national landmarks, calling them “real estate” structures instead. Ward was speaking on David Shuster’s MSNBC program “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” His appearance followed that of the respected financial analyst, Nicole Gelinas, the designer of a sophisticated alternative to the current plan, Kenneth Gardner, and Maureen and Al Santora, who voiced strong support for rebuilding and are convinced that their 23-year-old son Christopher, a firefighter with Engine Company 54, would want new Twin Towers to rise at Ground Zero.

Shuster spent a segment of every show last week focusing on the disappointing state of Ground Zero and plans to continue the investigation. MSNBC has been conducting a concurrent poll of its viewers asking whether the Twin Towers should be rebuilt at the future World Trade Center. So far, those in favor of rebuilding the Twin Towers have consistently registered over 90%.

Mr. Ward’s dismissal of the Twin Towers as just real estate was out of step with a July, 2001, Port Authority press release that boasted: “The World Trade Center and its Twin Towers are among the handful of instantly recognizable structures on the entire planet, like the Pyramids at Giza or the Great Wall of China.”

In 2007, an American Institute of Architects’ poll of “America’s Favorite Architecture” placed the Twin Towers 19th on the list of 150 finalists – ahead of such popular landmarks as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Woolworth Building, the NY Public Library, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, the Guggenheim Museum, the Plaza Hotel, Monticello, and Fallingwater.

Friday’s appearance by Ward on MSNBC followed his appearance Thursday at a hearing in Lower Manhattan conducted by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver’s committee was investigating the lack of progress at Ground Zero.

Seeking accountability from the Port Authority, Silver proposed to Ward that an independent oversight committee be set up to monitor the work. Ward strenuously resisted this suggestion. Afterwards, speaking to the press outside the hearing room, Silver mused that perhaps the Port Authority should be replaced and some other agency should take over the complex project.

In September of 2008, structural engineer Ken Gardner and the directors of the Twin Towers Alliance, Margaret Donovan and Richard Hughes, met with Commissioner Ward in his office for more than half an hour to show him a highly evolved plan for rebuilding the Twin Towers at the site. All three report that Mr. Ward showed more than just polite interest in the plan and said it deserved consideration and a timely response.

Four and a half months later Mr. Gardner has heard nothing further from Mr. Ward. Gardner, Donovan and Hughes say they seriously doubt that the Governor has been fully briefed on the true nature of the present opportunity or appreciates what it would mean for New York and for the nation.

The alternative plan, known as Twin Towers II, would recapture the iconic excitement of the original Twins while making them safer, greener, and better suited for a 24/7 work environment. Mr. Gardner explains that the plan, in development for more than five years, used the blueprints of the original towers as a starting point and then re-engineered the complex to recapture what was grand about the originals, while diligently addressing their flaws.

As a result, the design incorporates robust security, state-of-the-art evacuation technology, construction economy, and advanced environmental practices. He further noted that the mixed-use nature of his project, which works so well in today’s real estate environment, would include twin 30-story atriums encircled by some of the most desirable residences and corporate suites in the world.

Twin Towers II, it was pointed out to Mr. Ward, could be built much faster than the current plan while saving billions of dollars due to the greater efficiency of construction possible when building two identical towers instead of four highly individual buildings with the multitude of custom-built floor plates they would require.

The project could be realized in less time than the existing plan and the transition would require very little retrofitting because it can incorporate the current memorial and transit hub. Furthermore, the bulk of the four billion dollars spent on ground work would have to have been spent for either plan.

Meanwhile, the costs for the current plan keep escalating. In Thursday’s hearing, Ward said that Port Authority’s end of the project would come in at $10.5 billion. That does not include Silverstein’s three buildings.

Larry Silverstein admitted at the hearing that he cannot build his three buildings without using Liberty Bonds. In other words, the American taxpayer will be on the hook for Silverstein’s part of the project plus the commitment by the General Services Administration to occupy a significant chunk of the “Freedom Tower.”

Furthermore, he made it clear that his buildings would be unleaseable without heavy security in and around the site. He emphasized that the Vehicle Security Center must be completed before his first building is finished if he is to be able to attract tenants.

Twin Towers advocates have argued all along that carving up the so-called “superblock” is responsible for the security nightmare. It is impossible to justify the policy. The re-introduction of the street grid means that not only will the base of 1WTC be a windowless fortress, regardless of the mirrored veneer, but also, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s plan, Lower Manhattan’s streets will need to be gated and barricaded so that in case of a terrorist attack they can be immediately locked down.

Little of this would be necessary, Richard Hughes suggests, if the superblock were simply restored and the Twin Towers rebuilt. A natural security moat would then exist around them, making them virtually impervious to any truck bomb attack. And, the park-like outdoor spaces within the protected grade-level plaza would create a pedestrian-friendly oasis featuring retail and dining establishments, while providing a suitable setting for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

David Shuster plans to continue his investigation of what has gone wrong with the redevelopment of Ground Zero in the coming week, with some prominent guests scheduled. He has indicated that his purpose in shining more light on the subject is to give the public the opportunity to evaluate the present course while there is still time to achieve what all Americans really want – the best World Trade Center we can possibly create.

Hughes points out that the appearance of Director Ward on Thursday’s segment underscored how committed officials clearly are to pushing the status quo through whether it makes sense or not. He expressed the hope that David Shuster, and other journalists, will diligently dissect any official pronouncements that are issued from now on and be dedicated to discovering the truth.

According to Hughes, there is only one overriding question that needs an answer: If it can be established that new Twin Towers could rise beside the memorial at Ground Zero in a manner that saves money, does it ahead of the current schedule, is in keeping with the prerogatives of the various stakeholders, and gives people what they have wanted all along, can anyone or anything legitimately stand in the way?

He notes that, contrary to Mr. Ward’s insistence that the current design is “one plan,” there is nothing about the project – designed in segments by more than half a dozen architects – that suggests a unifying theme. “But pledging to put stunning 21st-Century Twin Towers back in ‘America’s Skyline’ would unify the nation, energize the economy, and change the course of history overnight.”
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