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    WTC work will start with blasting 



Ground Zero will soon rumble with demolition to prepare footings for the Freedom Tower.

Test blasts beneath The Pit's concrete floor - more than 85 feet below street level - will be set off Monday, a spokesman for developer Larry Silverstein said yesterday. If the demolition passes a review by the Port Authority and Fire Department, blasting will continue every other weekday, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., over the next two months. "We're not expecting it to be heard on Church St., but we do expect people to hear it along Vesey St.," said Mel Ruffini, Tishman Construction's Freedom Tower project manager.

There will be up to four blasts a day and each should resonate about 15 seconds, he said. Tishman estimates the rock-loosening bangs will save 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which would be needed for hammer-like hoe rams to do the job. "It's very hard rock," Ruffini added. Silverstein retained Tishman to build the 1,776-foot office tower in the northwest corner of the site, at Vesey and West Sts.

The Port Authority, whose New Jersey-bound PATH trains run near the blast site, said it will display demolition alerts at the WTC station on Monday.

Trains will be held in the station during blasts.

The Fire Department will post notices on nearby streets. Paul Goldstein, district manager of downtown's Community Board 1, said blasting "seems to have become a more popular method of digging these days. We have it on the MTA's South Ferry project and on the city's water tunnel No. 3." He added, "We're sort of keeping an open mind [on Freedom Tower rumbles], I guess, because we've had experience with it."

Meanwhile, the WTC performing arts center - due to rise just east of the Freedom Tower - inched closer yesterday to a still-distant opening night. The board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. extended the contract of architect Frank Gehry, previously picked to design the center, until next June. The move comes four weeks after Gehry told the Daily News his design work was on hold because he had "no idea" about the timetable for the project.

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