Without Fanfare, Building of New Trade Center Starts
When are they ever going to start building the new World Trade Center?
Thirty-nine years after the first concrete was poured into the first trench for the first telephone vault for the first trade center, carpenters built a 168-foot-long wooden trough in a gentle S curve through the south tower footprint at ground zero. From this sinuous sprout, Santiago Calatrava's PATH terminal and transportation hub will emerge.
"Don't laugh; it's a milestone day," said Charles A. Gargano, vice chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site and is building the $2.21 billion terminal over the next four years.
Until now, milestones at ground zero have tended to be ceremonial. There was not a hint of ceremony yesterday. Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were nowhere to be seen in the 70-foot-deep pit. The Freedom Tower cornerstone of July 4, 2004, sat hidden under a blue plywood box.
But anyone looking out from a PATH train screeching around the corner into the temporary World Trade Center station would have seen a crew from the Beaver Concrete Construction Company of Brooklyn. "They're finally doing something with this big hole," said Anthony Martelli, one of the workers, standing inside the newly completed trough. "It's about time." It was Mr. Martelli's first day back at ground zero since early 2002, after a six-month tour cleaning up debris and pulling out pieces of steel. Yesterday, he was building again - he and Paul Klein and Frank De Guida and Robert Manella and Tonino Sacino.
Starting at 7 a.m., they built a trough 18 inches high and 6 feet 3 inches wide out of thick wood planks. Cagelike frames of steel reinforcing bars, or rebar, will be set into the trough beginning today. Then concrete will be poured over the rebar. That will form the footing of a seven-foot-high concrete retaining wall. The wall will hold about four feet of fill, on top of which ballast will be laid for a temporary PATH track, No. 6, alongside the future Platform D, the fourth and westernmost platform.
Currently, there are five tracks among three platforms, two of which occupy a corner of the south tower footprint, as they did in the original station. Platform D would take up more space in the south footprint and a tiny bit of the north footprint. Once Platform D and Track No. 6 are usable, in early 2007, other tracks can be taken out of service temporarily to allow construction of the permanent terminal while commuters are traveling through the tubes to and from New Jersey.
The construction manager is a joint venture of Parsons Brinckerhoff, which counts the first New York City subway line among its earliest achievements, and the URS Corporation. A general contractor is to be chosen in the next few months. Icanda was the contractor in 1966 when the first concrete was poured, at West and Cortlandt Streets. John M. Kyle, the chief engineer of the Port Authority, threw in a silver dollar, a 100-lire coin from Italy, a 5-franc coin from France and a British penny. Asked about the absence of fanfare yesterday, Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman of the Port Authority, said: "I think people have become so jaded by the inordinate amount of ceremonies that have occurred at that site - disproportionate to what's actually happened - that I didn't want to add to that. This is about actually building."
There is a potential snag, however. A lawsuit filed last month by the Coalition of 9/11 Families seeks to halt the project on the ground that it violates a federal law requiring that historic sites not be used for transportation projects unless there are no feasible or prudent alternatives. Anthony Gardner, one of the plaintiffs, whose brother was killed on 9/11, said the authority had never justified the need for Platform D. "Our focus has always been to ensure the maximum preservation and access to the remains of the footprints for the American people and future visitors to the site," Mr. Gardner said yesterday.
The Port Authority and the Federal Transit Administration have yet to answer the complaint, he said. A spokesman for the authority said it would not discuss pending litigation. But Steven Plate, deputy director of the priority capital programs department, did talk about the authority's sense of stewardship as he inspected the site, pointing out that the tower footprints had been covered by polyethylene liners and 12 inches of stone fill to protect them during construction. "We're very committed, personally and professionally, to preserving the site," he said. "Eighty-four of our own perished here. "I don't want to sound melodramatic, but there is no monopoly on caring for the site. This is the Port Authority's home.