Susie and Jeff visit the WTC Construction Site

Last Monday was very exciting for H.A. Dunne & Co.  Susie and I went into New York City to meet with the independent filmmaker in charge of documenting the construction of the new World Trade Center for Silverstein Properties.  He wanted to discuss H.A. Dunne's collection of approximately 3,000 photo negatives documenting the construction of the original World Trade Center to see whether there could be a way to use our images in conjunction with his.
Original WTC Construction Site 1968
Original WTC Construction Site
Original WTC Construction Site
Original WTC Construction Site, 1968

 

We arrived around 10:30 Monday morning and were given the VIP treatment from the word go.  Our host directed us into a parking space right in front of 7 World Trade Center, the first building to be completed in the new WTC complex.  It was opened over four years ago and is 85% occupied, although it still seems largely overlooked by the public, which seems to view the current WTC construction project as a having made little progress in the nine years since 9/11.

 

View of 48th Floor 7 WTC from Elevator Bank
View from WTC 7
View of WTC Construction Site from 7 WTC
We began our tour in the lobby.  Out of necessity the building was constructed with three levels of protection from attack, and these safety nets are being installed in impressive and creative ways.  There is a beautiful installation behind the front desk that is made up of multiple light filled panels with words of New York City poetry scrolling across it.  The reality is that this is a blast sheild, designed to protect the elevators and stairwells from damage should the building be attacked from the front.  This building as well as the others under construction are also being built to a very impressive green standard. 7 World Trade Center has received the Gold LEED Certification.  Some of the innovations are extremely cool.  The elevator, for example, knows which floor you work on, so when you swipe your access card at the turnstile, a central computer sends an elevator for you and tells you which car to board. If you are going to a different floor, you enter the floor number on a panel at the elevator bank. Knowing where elevator passengers are going before they board the car, enables the computer to group them efficiently, saving electricity, and making the ride significantly shorter, which in a tall building is extremely important.

 

48th Floor of 7 WTC
View of Original WTC footprint from 7 WTC
View from 48th Floor of 7 WTC
From the lobby our host escorted us to the 48th Floor, where we could see fabulous views of the site and all of Lower Manhattan.  The four buildings are well under way as are the memorials. Each of the new buildings is being designed by a different architect so that they will each have an individual feel but work will together to create an almost mini city downtown. The footprints of the two original towers are being kept sacred - they are being turned into fountains where family, friends and others can gather to sit and quietly reflect.  These two footprints are a lasting and fitting way to never forget.  There will be no commercial space along the inside of the plaza to further keep this area peaceful.

 

Dara McQuillan giving a tour of the WTC
Model of WTC Complex
Model of WTC and Freedom tower
From the 48th Floor, we went down to 10 and joined a VIP tour being given by Dara McQuillan, Silverstein's Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications.  Dara is worthy of his job. He provided an abundance of information about the struggle to build the new WTC complex amid the conflicting clamor of the various constituencies, including the Port Authority, the families of the 9/11 victims, the Police and Fire Departments, and the City of New York, while Silverstein continues to pay $10 million per month on its 99-year lease.  While clearly Dara was expressing a point of view, the project is nonetheless daunting.

 

WTC Construction Site 10-25-10
Susie Berg at the WTC Construction Site
WTC Construction Site October 25, 2010
Jeffrey Berg at the WTC Construction Site
After that tour, we were given hard hats, safety goggles, and vests, and were taken out to the construction site.  It is hard to imagine the size of the place until you walk through it.  The bathtub is huge and with all of the walkways and planks it is hard to keep track of where you are and where you are going.  There is a bustle of activity and the sounds of a few thousand workers going about their day.  I have to admit I was very hesitant to come down here.  Even though I was a NYC resident on September 11th, I had never visited the site.  It seemed too sad, too tragic and I frankly didn't think it should become a tourist attraction.  Our visit though changed my thinking.  Now that something is going up it feels alive again somehow.  Our host called it a "wound that is finally beginning to heal" and I agree with him.  The pain will never go away, and never should but but to see something positive happening, is a positive step.

 

Old WTC Tridents
911 Memorial Museum
WTC Trees
WTC Memorial Fountain
Our stop at the memorials was our favorite part of the day.  The fountains will be simple but powerful and will house the two largest manmade waterfalls in America.  The plaza surrounding will hold a few hundred trees further enhancing the park like feeling in the middle of this bustling hub.  We left the site feeling like we'd seen something amazing and enjoyed finding out first hand what is being done and can't wait until it is completed so all can enjoy.  Not only was it exciting to see and experience this re-birth, it's also pretty exciting that our images may somehow be a part of this piece of history.