World Trade Center site

World Trade Center site
Aerial view of the World Trade Center site, September 23, 2001.

The World Trade Center site (ZIP code: 10048), also known as "Ground Zero" after the September 11 attacks, sits on 16 acres (65,000 m2) in Lower Manhattan in New York City.[1] The World Trade Center complex stood on the site until it was destroyed in the attacks; Studio Daniel Libeskind, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Silverstein Properties, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation oversee the reconstruction of the site. The site is bounded by Vesey Street to the north, the West Side Highway to the west, Liberty Street to the south, and Church Street to the east. The Port Authority owns the site's land (except for 7 World Trade Center). Developer Larry Silverstein holds the lease to retail and office space in four of the site's buildings.[2]

While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is often identified as the owner of the WTC site, the ownership situation is actually somewhat complex and ambiguous.[3] The Port Authority indeed owns a "significant" internal portion of the site of 16 acres (65,000 m2), but has acknowledged "ambiguities over ownership of miscellaneous strips of property at the World Trade Center site", going back to the 1960s. It is unclear who owns 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of the site, being land where streets had been before the World Trade Center was built.


Before the World Trade Center occupied the site

The western portion of the World Trade Center site was originally under the Hudson River, with the shoreline in the vicinity of Greenwich Street. It was on this shoreline close to the intersection of Greenwich and the former Dey Street that Dutch explorer Adriaen Block's ship, the Tyger, burned to the waterline in November 1613, stranding Block and his crew and forcing them to overwinter on the island. They built the first European settlement, albeit a temporary one in what would be New York City. The remains of the ship were buried under landfill when the shoreline was extended starting in 1797, and were discovered during excavation work in 1916. The remains of a second ship from the eighteenth century were discovered in 2010 during excavation work at the site. The ship believed to be a Hudson River sloop was found just south of where the Twin Towers used to stand, about 20 feet below the surface.[4]

September 11 attacks

On the morning of September 11, 2001, two hijacked planes bound for Los Angeles were intentionally crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center. The towers collapsed within two hours of the collisions.[5] Terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda organized and executed the attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people died. After the attacks, hospital workers and police officers began referring to the World Trade Center site as "Ground Zero".[6]

Debris and clean-up

Satellite image of the World Trade center site after the attacks with the location of the Twin Towers and other buildings in the complex superimposed over the debris field
The World Trade Center site 17 days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Buildings surrounding the site of the collapsed towers are fitted with mesh to prevent further damage and large construction vehicles are being used to clear debris.

The collapse of the towers spread dust across New York City and left hundreds of thousands of tons of debris at the site.[7] To organize the cleanup and search for survivors and for human remains, the New York Fire Department divided the disaster site into four sectors, each headed by its own chief.[8] Early estimates suggested that debris removal would take a year, but cleanup ended in May 2002, under budget and without a single serious injury.[9][10] Three years later, in February 2005, the New York City Medical Examiner's office ended its process of identifying human remains at the site.[11]

According to experts, when WTC 1 (the North Tower) collapsed, falling debris struck 7 World Trade Center and ignited fires on multiple floors. The uncontrolled fires ultimately led to the progressive collapse of the structure.[12] Portions of the South Tower also damaged the nearby Deutsche Bank Building, which soon became filled with toxic dust. By 2002, Deutsche Bank determined that its building was unsalvageable. By January 2011, the Deutsche Bank Building was finally completely demolished.[13]

Cleanup workers trucked most of the building materials and debris from Ground Zero to Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island. Some people, such as those affiliated with World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial, were worried that human remains might also have been (inadvertently) transported to the landfill.[11]

In August 2008, New York City firefighters donated a cross made of steel from the World Trade Center to the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company.[14] The beam, mounted atop a platform shaped like the Pentagon, was erected outside the Shanksville firehouse near the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93.[15]

In December 2001, a temporary viewing platform at Fulton Street, between Church Street and Broadway, opened to the public.[16]

On March 11, 2002, 88 searchlights were installed and arranged to form two beams of light shooting straight up into the sky. This is called the Tribute in Light, and was originally lit every day at dusk until April 14, 2002. After that, the lights were lit on the two-year anniversary of the attack and have been lit on each subsequent September 11 since then.[17]


In July 2010 a team of archaeologists at the site discovered the remains of a 32-foot (9.8 m)-long boat over 200 years old; it was probably made in the 18th century and dumped there along with wooden beams and trash in about 1810 to make up the land.[18] The boat had been weighted to make it sink as part of foundations for a new pier. Samples of its wood have been taken for dendrochronology.


World Trade Center site layout

WTC site plan prior to 9/11/2001
Above: The World Trade Center site prior to the September 11 attacks.
WTC site plan for reconstruction
Above: Preliminary site plans for the World Trade Center rebuild.

Soon after the September 11 attacks, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki, and President George W. Bush vowed to rebuild the World Trade Center site. On the day of the attacks, Giuliani proclaimed, "We will rebuild. We're going to come out of this stronger than before, politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again."[19] During a visit to the site on September 14, 2001, Bush spoke to a crowd of cleanup workers through a megaphone. An individual in the crowd shouted, "I can't hear you," to which Bush replied, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."[20]

In a later address before Congress, the president declared, "As a symbol of America's resolve, my administration will work with Congress, and these two leaders, to show the world that we will rebuild New York City."[21] The immediate response from World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein was that "it would be the tragedy of tragedies not to rebuild this part of New York. It would give the terrorists the victory they seek."[22] However, ten years after the attacks, only one building, 7 World Trade Center, has been rebuilt. Two buildings are in the construction phase currently, One World Trade Center and 150 Greenwich Street (known as Four World Trade Center). The original twin towers took less than three years from start of construction to be finished, and 5 years from the beginning planning stages.

Lower Manhattan Development Corporation

Governor Pataki established the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) in November 2001, as an official commission to oversee the rebuilding process.[23] The LMDC coordinates federal assistance in the rebuilding process, and works with the Port Authority, Larry Silverstein, and Studio Daniel Libeskind, the master plan architect for the site's redesign. The corporation also handles communication with the local community, businesses, the city of New York, and relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks.[24] A 16-member board of directors, half appointed by the governor and half by the mayor of New York, governs the LMDC.[25]

The LMDC had questionable legal status regarding the restoration of the World Trade Center site, because the Port Authority owns most of the property and Larry Silverstein leased the World Trade Center's office space in July 2001. But the LMDC, in an April 2002 articulation of its principles for action, asserted its role in revitalizing lower Manhattan.[26]

Early proposals for redesign

Artist's rendering of proposed design with September 11 Memorial in the foreground

In the months following the attacks, architects and urban planning experts held meetings and forums to discuss ideas for rebuilding the site.[27] In January 2002, New York City art dealer Max Protetch solicited 50 concepts and renderings from artists and architects, which were put on exhibit in his Chelsea art gallery.[28]

In April 2002, the LMDC sent out requests for proposals to redesign the World Trade Center site to 24 Manhattan architecture firms, but then soon withdrew them. The following month, the LMDC selected Beyer Blinder Belle as planner for the redesign of the World Trade Center site.[29]

On July 16, 2002, Beyer Blinder Belle unveiled six concepts for redesigning the World Trade Center site.[30] All six designs were voted "poor" by the roughly 5,000 New Yorkers that submitted feedback, so the LDMC announced a new, international, open-design study.[31]

2002 World Trade Center site design competition

In an August 2002 press release, the LMDC announced a design study for the World Trade Center site.[32] The following month, the LMDC, along with New York New Visions – a coalition of 21 architecture, engineering, planning, landscape architecture and design organizations – announced seven semifinalists. The following seven architecture firms were then invited to compete to be the master plan architect for the World Trade Center:

Peterson Littenberg, a small New York architecture firm, had been enlisted by the LMDC earlier that summer as a consultant, and was invited to participate as the seventh semifinalist.[34]

The seven semifinalists presented their entries to the public on December 18, 2002 at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center. In the following weeks, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill withdrew its entry from the competition.[35]

Days before the announcement of the two finalists in February 2003, Larry Silverstein wrote to LMDC Chair John Whitehead to express his disapproval of all of the semifinalists' designs. As the Twin Towers' insurance money recipient, Silverstein claimed that he had the sole right to decide what would be built. He announced that he had already picked Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as his master planner for the site.[36]

On February 1, 2003, the LMDC selected two finalists, the THINK Team and Studio Daniel Libeskind, and planned on picking a single winner by the end of the month.

Rafael Viñoly of the THINK Team and Studio Daniel Libeskind presented their designs to the LMDC, which selected the THINK design. Earlier the same day, however, Roland Betts, a member of the LMDC, had called a meeting and the corporation had agreed to vote for the THINK design before hearing the final presentations. Governor Pataki, who had originally commissioned the LMDC, intervened and overruled the LMDC's decision.[37] On February 27, 2003, Studio Daniel Libeskind officially won the competition to be the master planner for the World Trade Center redesign.

Libeskind's original proposal, which is titled Memory Foundations, underwent extensive revisions during collaboration with Larry Silverstein, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, whom Silverstein hired. Though Libeskind designed the site, the individual buildings have been designed by different architects.

Detailed information about Libeskind's Memory Foundations site plan can be accessed at LMDC's website.

While not all of Liebeskind's ideas were incorporated into the final design, his design and the public support it garnered did solidify the principle that the original footprints of the Twin Towers should be turned into a memorial and not be used for commercial purposes. As a result, Liebeskind's lawyers at the New York firm of Wachtell Lipton embarked on the multi-year negotiation process to frame a master plan for the rebuilding. <> The first step in this process, completed in 2003, was the "swap" in which Silverstein gave up his rights to the footprints of the Twin Towers so that they could become a memorial, and in exchange received the right to build five new office towers around the memorial. <> The "swap" and the ensuing negotiations, which lasted for many years, have been referred to as the most complex real estate transaction in human history because of the complexity of the issues involved, the many stakeholders, and the difficulty of reaching consensus. <Scott Raab, Construction of World Trade Center, Esquire, May 24, 2007>


A view of Ground Zero, taken in September 2006, from the 45th floor of the completed 7 World Trade Center with the future Greenwich Street running vertically through the center.

One World Trade Center (previously coined the "Freedom Tower" by Governor Pataki) is the centerpiece of Libeskind's design. The building will rise to 1,368 feet (417 m), the height of the original World Trade Center north tower, and its antenna will rise to the symbolic height of 1,776 feet (541 m). The antenna's height refers to 1776, the year in which the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.

The tower was a collaboration between Studio Daniel Libeskind and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architect David Childs.[38] Childs acted as the design architect and project manager for the tower, and Daniel Libeskind collaborated on the concept and schematic design.[39] According to a NY1 article on March 8, 2011, a plan to build a restaurant on top of One World Trade Center (to duplicate the Windows on the World restaurant of old) was scrapped entirely because of potential risk of rising costs to build and maintain the establishment over the benefits of having one at all.[40] Also, one of the main tenants of this tower to be confirmed is the Condé Nast Publications company, once it officially opens.[41][42]

British architect Norman Foster designed Tower Two, also known as 200 Greenwich Street. The building's distinctive slanted, diamond-shaped roof echoes Libeskind's original sketches for the building.

Richard Rogers Partnership designed Tower Three, or 175 Greenwich Street, which stands across Greenwich Street from the Memorial's two reflecting pools.

Maki and Associates designed Tower Four, also known as 150 Greenwich Street.[43][44]

Tower 5 was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox and will stand where the Deutsche Bank Building once stood. On June 22, 2007, the Port Authority announced that JP Morgan Chase will lease the 42-story building for its investment banking headquarters.[45][46]; however, JPMorgan's March 2008 acquisition of Bear Stearns had put the future of the 130 Liberty Street site in question, as the company is now planning to relocate its headquarters to 383 Madison Avenue. Construction began on September 9, 2011.

7 World Trade Center stands off of Port Authority property. David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill designed the tower, which opened in May 2006. The project company also announced that all of the towers will be completed even with the effects of the late 2000s recession at the worst case before 2020.


A memorial called "Reflecting Absence" honors the victims of the September 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[47] The memorial, designed by Peter Walker and Israeli-American architect Michael Arad, consists of a field of trees interrupted by the footprints of the twin towers. Pools of water fill the footprints, underneath which sits a memorial space whose walls bear the names of the victims. The slurry wall, which holds back the Hudson River in the west and was an integral part of Libeskind's proposal, remains exposed.[48]

Walker and Arad were selected from more than 5,000 entrants in the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition in January 2004. Construction of the memorial was completed before September 11, 2011.[49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57]


On October 12, 2004, the LMDC announced that Gehry Partners LLP and Snøhetta, a Norwegian architectural firm, would design the site's performing arts and museum complexes, respectively.[58] [59]

The Snøhetta-designed museum[60] will now act as a memorial museum and visitors' center, after family members of 9/11 victims objected to the building's original occupant, the International Freedom Center.[61]

Gehry's performing arts complex will now house only the Joyce Theater, because the Signature Theater Company dropped out due to space constraints and cost limitations.[61]

Transportation Hub

Entrance to the PATH at the World Trade Center

Santiago Calatrava designed the World Trade Center Transportation Hub (its main asset being the PATH station ) to replace the old World Trade Center station.[62] The Transport Hub will connect the PATH station and 1 New York City Transit Authority subway train to the ferry terminal, the World Financial Center and One World Trade Center on the west and the 2 3 4 5 A C E J Z N R New York City Transit Authority subway trains through the Fulton Street Transit Center on the East. One will be able to walk most of the way across lower Manhattan. The Port Authority will cool the new station, as well as the September 11 Memorial and Museum, via a heat exchanger fed by four pipes carrying water from the Hudson River.[63] The cost for the transportation hub is estimated at $3.44 billion.[64][65][66]

Other buildings

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

Government officials have backed down from a July 2008 deal to relocate the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only church destroyed in the September 11 attacks.[67][68]

A deal has been reached between church officials, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the Port Authority to have the church rebuilt on the same site, but three times the original size on October 14, 2011, according to NY1.[69]


As of September 2011, progress on the construction of the redesigned site is as follows:[70][71][72][73][74][75]

Construction gallery

See also


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