66-foot-long, travertine-paved remnant of the original World Trade Center concourse - still used every day by hundreds of commuters walking between the Eighth Avenue subway platforms and the PATH station - will be permanently preserved as part of the new trade center transportation hub, the Port Authority said yesterday.
The authority also said it would salvage a fluorescent orange memorial marking from the stairwell of the underground garage, uncover the remaining steel stubs of the twin towers' perimeter columns and mark the edge of the north tower outline on a PATH platform that will one day cover one corner of the tower's footprint.
In announcing these and other preservation measures, the Port Authority hoped to defuse the almost simultaneous announcement by the Coalition of 9/11 Families that it was suing the authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in federal court to stop construction at ground zero until the agencies "adhere to their legally binding commitments to satisfy historic preservation requirements."
Although ground zero appears at first glance to have been swept clean of trade center remnants, there are, in fact, many architectural features and structural outcroppings - some small and quite subtle - that speak to the site's history.
Saving these remnants will add to the cost and complexity of an already challenging reconstruction project, so there has long been tension between redevelopment officials and preservationists over how much to keep or salvage. They have also battled over the extent to which state agencies are adhering to requirements of federal preservation law.
"We have to be constantly, diligently, aggressively on their case about all the historic preservation issues," said Anthony Gardner of the Coalition of 9/11 Families. "Otherwise, the historic integrity of the World Trade Center would be destroyed."
The authority and the corporation said in a statement that they had "worked closely with the coalition and other stakeholders" to preserve the historical significance and dignity of the site and were "deeply disappointed" that the coalition filed suit.
Originally, the Port Authority planned to demolish the remaining segment of the trade center concourse to accommodate the permanent terminal, in part because there will be a 14-foot difference in floor levels. But Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the authority, said yesterday that as a result of suggestions during a federally required historical review, the entire segment would be preserved and joined to the new building by stairs or escalators. It will still serve as a conduit between the PATH station and the subway.
A new PATH platform in the permanent hub will cover about 1,600 square feet of the north tower footprint. The tower outline will be indicated on the platform, perhaps with colored tiles, Mr. Coleman said.
In the garage, which is being demolished to make way for the Freedom Tower, the authority had earlier committed to saving two smoke- and heat-damaged columns and a section of wall labeled "Yellow Parking B2." It has now expanded the salvage list to include a staircase handrail and a fluorescent orange heart and cross, evidently an impromptu memorial to electrical workers who died in the attack. It may also save a ceiling beam stenciled "Ponya," for the Port of New York Authority, as the agency was called when the trade center was under construction.
Mr. Coleman said the authority would dig as many tower column stubs as possible out from under layers of dirt and gravel, probably in October. This will permit relatives of the attack victims to visit the site and trace much more exactly where the towers stood. The column remnants will also be documented.
Mr. Gardner was unappeased. "In terms of documentation of the remains of the footprints," he said yesterday, "this should have been done months ago and could have been done months ago."