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    The Hole in the City’s Heart: Extract on Downtown PATH Tube Station   

Tuesday, September 11, 2006
AN EXPENSIVE VISION: When it came to selecting an architect to build the new PATH station, the Port Authority had no intention of following in the development corporation’s footsteps.

“We did not want an endless public process with 5,000 public submittals,” said Anthony Cracchiolo, who was in charge of capital projects for the authority. “We said, ‘Let’s do it the traditional way.’ ” Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect, artist and engineer who had earned an international reputation for his bridges and transportation terminals, submitted a bid in partnership with two New York firms. “You see,” Mr. Calatrava said in an interview, explaining his interest, “to make a statement of construction in a place that has suffered such a devastating destruction — you cannot be in a better place.”

In the summer of 2003, Mr. Calatrava’s partnership, which includes the STV Group and DMJM Harris, won a $155.6 million contract to design the PATH station. (Several years later, Mr. Cracchiolo, who retired from the Port Authority with a $145,000 annual pension, went to work for STV. So did two other former Port executives involved with the PATH project, although the firm said that none of them are working on that terminal. ) Inspired by the idea of a child releasing a dove, Mr. Calatrava designed a soaring winged structure, with a roof that could open to the sky every Sept. 11.

Port Authority officials quickly found themselves enchanted by Mr. Calatrava’s considerable charm. “I have become very, very fond of Santiago,” said Mr. Ringler, the Port Authority’s executive director. “The guy’s a genius. But the first thing that hits you in the face — he gives you a hug.”

Mr. Calatrava’s business is based in Zurich and Valencia, Spain, but since 2002 he has lived part-time on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Unlike many other architects at ground zero, Mr. Calatrava has retained significant creative control, although he has faced both security issues and some minor cost concerns. He was asked to use polished granite instead of marble, for instance, but Port Authority officials have not wanted to tie the hands of a man they consider an artist. “Our people call him the Da Vinci of our time,” said Mr. Seymour of the Port Authority.

After Sept. 11, Port Authority officials jumped at the opportunity to remake the antiquated transportation infrastructure of Lower Manhattan. Almost immediately, they decided that they would not only restore what was lost but also improve on it. “The trade center had been attacked twice,” Mr. Cracchiolo said. “Our thinking at the time was we needed to make a statement. We wanted to create a Grand Central Terminal in Lower Manhattan. It could be a catalyst for development as Grand Central was in Midtown.”

Grand Central, however, was built by the Vanderbilts. The new terminal in Lower Manhattan will be built by the taxpayers. The central hall in Mr. Calatrava’s station will be roughly as capacious as Grand Central’s main concourse. But while Grand Central has 45 train tracks, the PATH station will have 5. And while Grand Central serves 200,000 train commuters and 700,000 subway riders daily, the World Trade Center PATH station now serves 42,000.

The Port Authority anticipates the number of commuters doubling in a couple of decades, just as it anticipates the transportation hub — with its stores and store-lined underground corridors — evolving into a heavily trafficked crossroads. New York’s leaders stand solidly behind the PATH project even if some gape at the price tag. “It’s the only part of the project that has not been controversial,” Carl Weisbrod, president of Trinity Real Estate, said. “It’s a lot of money to spend on a PATH station. But the Calatrava may well end up becoming the icon of the site.”

In trips to Washington after Sept. 11, New York officials made transportation projects a priority, persuading Congress to dedicate $4.55 billion of the ground zero money to them. That was a substantial chunk — almost a third — of the $15 billion in direct federal aid. (Another $5 billion came in the form of a tax incentive program.)

The two major transportation projects, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Fulton Street Transit Center and the Port Authority’s World Trade Center transportation hub, are nearly side by side. “It will be like having Grand Central and Penn Station a block apart,” Mr. Yaro of the Regional Plan Association said. The M.T.A. project is budgeted at $847 million, and the port’s at $2.2 billion, with a $280 million reserve fund. (The Port Authority will contribute $300 million of its own money to the PATH complex.) Neither terminal adds capacity to its system.

As now estimated, the PATH complex — whose price tag includes underground passageways radiating from the terminal and the east foundation — costs roughly the same as the Freedom Tower. But it requires much less concrete and steel, chief ingredients that drive cost, according to construction estimates. Where the Freedom Tower will need 190,000 cubic yards of concrete and 53,700 tons of steel, according to the estimate, the PATH complex will need less than half as much of those materials.

One reason for the disproportionate cost of the PATH project is that the government is spending more on “soft costs” than Silverstein Properties, which is building the Freedom Tower. For instance, the PATH complex’s administration, design and insurance costs will total about $620 million, or 28 percent of the project’s total, according to federal transportation documents. The same costs for the Freedom Tower will be about $290 million, or 14.5 percent of that project’s total, according to Silverstein Properties. Port officials say the projects are not comparable. “Ours is a complex transportation project,’’ said John J. McCarthy, the agency’s public affairs director. “It’s very different than a stand-alone office building.’’

The new PATH terminal will replace the $323 million temporary PATH terminal built to replace the one destroyed on Sept. 11. That temporary station, an impressively rapid government construction project that seemed to herald a quick rebirth of the site, opened in the fall of 2003. 

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