NYC: construction begins on “Freedom Tower”

New Yorkers are supposed to be celebrating this break in the long impasse which has stalled reconstruction at Ground Zero. And indeed Larry Silverstein’s megalomania and greed have been an appalling spectacle. But, as we have repeatedly emphasized, rebuilding a skyscraper at the WTC site is a very bad idea, just as building the original Twin Towers was a very bad idea. The WTC helped transform New York from a working-class city of neighborhoods and industry to a sterile administrative clearinghouse for global finance and a culturally-cleansed playground for the rich. The new (and Orwellianly-named) “Freedom Tower” will only accelerate this process. And, obviously, as a hubristic symbol of American power, the old WTC invited terrorist attacks; so (we hate to say it) will the Freedom Tower–as is explicitly acknowledged by the unprecedented heavy hand given to the NYPD and security concerns generally in its very design. WW4 Report officially dissents from the celebrations. From Reuters, April 27:

NEW YORK – A day after a developer and landowners resolved their disputes, bulldozers rumbled into a giant pit on Thursday to begin construction of the glittering Freedom Tower skyscraper meant to symbolise New York’s resilience to the September 11 attacks.

Rebuilding at the World Trade Centre site in Lower Manhattan began 4 1/2 years after the Twin Towers were destroyed by suicide hijackers who flew passenger planes into them.

The 1,776-foot (540-metre) tower will be among the tallest in the world.

“We are not going to just build low in the face of a war against terror,” New York Gov. George Pataki said. “We are going to soar to new heights and reclaim New York’s skyline.”

The project had been delayed by acrimonious disputes over money, security and design but the last major issues were resolved on Wednesday with a deal between developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The site will include three other high rises plus a residential tower that will surround a memorial, museum and cultural centre dedicated to what relatives of the September 11 victims consider a sacred site.

Construction is scheduled to be finished by 2011 or 2012.

Pataki symbolically laid the first stone on July 4, 2004, just ahead of the Republican National Convention in New York. The moderate Republican is considering a run for U.S. president and his legacy from three terms as governor will depend largely on his stewardship of rebuilding “Ground Zero.”

Just weeks ago the Port Authority had labelled Silverstein greedy but that sentiment was put aside Thursday.

“What is so spectacular is the opportunity to come together as we have in the last few days for the purpose of rebuilding the World Trade Centre,” Silverstein said. “It’s of great significance to me and to all New Yorkers.”


The 82-floor building’s observation deck will reach 1,362 feet (413 metres) and its decorative spire will top out at 1,776 feet, a figure to match the year the American colonies declared independence from Britain.

Its tenant base is expected to be government agencies, with the private sector more attracted to the other towers.

Once envisioned with a swirling design evocative of the Statue of Liberty, the project was redrawn after New York police said the building would be vulnerable to attack by lorry bombs.

Now it will have a 200-foot (60-metre) base coated in titanium and stainless panels meant to withstand the blast of a lorry bomb similar to the one Islamist militants used to attack the Twin Towers in 1993, killing six and wounding 1,000.

“It’s a simpler, cleaner and iconic piece,” said architect David Childs, who redesigned Daniel Libeskind’s original. “It’s a much better representation of a great monument.”

Critics fear the Freedom Tower will repeat the mistakes of the Twin Towers, which opened as a speculative venture in 1970 that glutted Lower Manhattan with office space, but more bullish analysts see the current strong market for commercial office space continuing for years.

“Here in New York it’s always feast or famine,” Silverstein said. “It’s going to be fascinating to see how the industry responds.”

See our last post on the battle over Ground Zero.