WTC 'Freedom Tower' Breaks Ground on July 4
Cornerstone to Be Laid at Trade Center Site
By Grant McCool, Reuters
NEW YORK (July 3) - Money troubles and feuding between architects will be politely set aside on July 4 when the granite cornerstone of the "Freedom Tower" skyscraper is laid at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.
Sunday's patriotically symbolic ceremony marks the start of what will be the world's tallest building at 1,776 feet when it is completed by 2009.
While officials enthuse about how smoothly an array of redevelopment plans have emerged since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, master planner Daniel Libeskind felt compelled this week to publicly defend himself against a report that his role had been severely diminished by a rival architect.
Libeskind designed the "Freedom Tower" in uneasy collaboration with David Childs, the architect hired by site leaseholder Larry Silverstein, who is himself under pressure to explain how he will pay to build four additional office buildings where the Twin Towers once stood.
"Happily, I am still intensively and fully engaged as the master planner for ground zero," Libeskind wrote in a letter published on June 27 in The New York Times responding to an article titled, "The Incredible Shrinking Daniel Libeskind."
Described as being marginalized by Childs' Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Libeskind said, "By any standard, I don't appear to be shrinking, physically or metaphorically."
As for Silverstein, a court defeat in May shaved $2 billion from $7 billion in insurance proceeds that he needed to restore 10 million square feet of office space on what has become known as Ground Zero.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey landowner said it had not given him a deadline to submit a new financial plan, but the two parties were in discussions.
"He is providing us with information and it's not conclusive yet," said Port Authority executive director Joseph Seymour. "We are still working with him."
Some critics say that is not good enough for the ambitious decade-long $12 billion plan to fill the 16 acre (6.4 hectare) void with commercial and residential buildings, a memorial, cultural institutions and rail links.
"They are going to work with him and work with him and he's never going to have the money," said Jonathan Hakala, whose venture capital firm was blown out of the 77th floor of One WTC by the hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 2,800 people.
"If he did, they would tell the public in specific terms how they were going to do that," said Hakala, who is also spokesman for the Team Twin Towers group, which advocates constructing buildings resembling the 110-story skyscrapers that collapsed in the attacks by Islamic militants.
A Silverstein spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that financial plans had been prepared or submitted, but said insurance money, conventional financing and bonds would be used to pay for the project.
"We will be able to meet our obligations to the Port Authority while financing the towers," said the spokesman.
Silverstein has meanwhile received a vote of confidence from New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, who brought forward the ground breaking on the $1.5 billion "Freedom Tower" to July 4, U.S. Independence Day, from early September.
"This is a tremendous statement about the resiliency of the people of New York and the nation," said Kevin Rampe, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was formed to oversee the site.
The height of the "Freedom Tower" symbolizes U.S. independence from Britain on July 4, 1776, and the design evokes the form of the Statue of Liberty.
WOW....Sooo it has started