November 16th - November 29th, 2007
New Broadcasting Technology May Alter Design of Freedom Tower
November 20th: A new technology is threatening the original plans for the design of the Freedom Tower, according to a report in the New York Sun. The plans for the building include a 408-foot spire that will sit atop the tower, bringing the building's overall height to a total of 1776 feet -- a nod by designers to the year America declared its independence.
While the spire itself is a key part of the overall design of the tower, its primary purpose is to function as a broadcast antenna. The antenna was originally meant to be used by the Metropolitan Television Alliance (MTVA), a collection of 11 broadcasters that will reside in the tower once it is completed. The trouble is that the MTVA has been using a new technology made up of multiple, low-power transmitters placed closer to street level rather than one single, tall antenna, the Sun reports.
In 2003, when the tower was still expected to be complete by 2009, MTVA had planned to use the spire as its primary broadcasting antennae; however, now, with new technologies available and an upcoming mandate by the Federal Communications Commission that will soon force the industry to convert to digital transmission of television signals as of February 2009, the MTVA is considering not using the spire at all. Since it will cost about $20 million to build -- the equivalent of two years worth of the MTVA's rent -- a cheaper and more technologically advanced system is looking like a more viable options.
Without the added height that the spire lends to the building, the tower would be cut down from its symbolic height to 1,368 feet -- the exact former height of Tower 1. Because of the substantial added cost to build the antennae, critics of the project don't think it should be built if the MTVA decides not to use it, the Sun reports. For now, the Port Authority will need to figure out another viable use for the spire in order to assuage critics complaining about the compromised plan.
Merrills Move Still up in the Air
November 21st: Following the recent departure of CEO Stanley O'Neil, the question of whether or not Merrill Lynch will move its headquarters to midtown or stay in Lower Manhattan persists, reports the New York Observer. Reports describe O'Neil as having had a "very strong hand" in the firm's decision to stay or go, says the Observer. A few weeks ago, media coverage regarding the decision seemed to be leaning toward an inevitable move to the site of the Hotel Pennsylvania in midtown. But now, with a new CEO at the helm and an enticing new offer thanks to Governor Eliot Spitzer's involvement, the decision could go either way.
Spitzer recently stepped in to coordinate a bid by developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority to move Merrill's offices to Tower 3 at the World Trade Center site, reports the Observer. The governor introduced a revised proposal that would drop hundreds of millions of dollars from the future costs the firm would incur for the move once its lease with Brookfield Properties' World Financial Center expires in 2013. "We think it's a fair offer downtown, it's an attractive offer; it's more than competitive," Avi Schick, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, told the Observer. All in all, if Merrill were to accept the offer to stay downtown it would save approximately $1 billion.
Industry Experts Skeptical of Port Authoritys Ability to Meet Deadline at WTC
November 21st: Real estate industry experts are unconvinced that the Port Authority will be able to meet its January 1st deadline for completion of work on the east side of the World Trade Center site, reports the New York Sun. Penalties for not meeting the deadline would cost the Authority $300,000 a day. The money would go to Silverstein Properties, the owner of the WTC site.
The Port Authority's work includes excavation of the site as well as the construction of slurry walls along the eastern portion of the site in preparation for three large office towers to be developed by Silverstein Properties, reports the Sun. Efforts to meet the looming deadline have construction workers now working 10-hour shifts with two different shifts of workers on site Mondays through Saturdays. Sundays will also see additional work taking place, but not at the same intensity level as the rest of the week, says the Sun.
The announcement that Silverstein Properties has hired the Yonkers Contracting Company to build the foundations for two of the three office towers has added even more pressure to the Port Authority, reports the Sun. The office buildings to be constructed first include Tower 2 and 3, which combined will offer about 2.6 million square feet of office space once completed. Silverstein added that work is expected to begin on January 2, 2008, and that no delays are expected at this time.
Sanitation Proposal Draws Ire of Lower Manhattan Community Members
November 22nd: Hudson Square residents are outraged over a controversial garbage plan that is expected to be approved by the New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) in the coming weeks. The city plan in question proposed the addition of a massive sanitation garage in and around Spring and West Streets, according to the Downtown Express.
The DOS recently confirmed the release of an environmental impact statement draft regarding the planned 140-foot-tall sanitation garage, which, if approved, will house three districts worth of sanitation trucks and other equipment in the large UPS lot along West Street, reports the Express.
The proposal has drawn anger as well as action among community members who are now considering legal action in an attempt to stop the new garage from ever coming to fruition. The Friends of Hudson Square group is leading the effort and is planning to hold a fundraiser in January to raise money for legal fees, according to the Express's report.
Demolition of 213 Pearl St. Nears Completion, New Hotel to Take its Place
November 22nd: "The fight to save the 1832 warehouse located at 213 Pearl Street has ended," reports the Downtown Express. Demolition of the site is nearly complete, paving the way for a new 660-room Sheraton Hotel courtesy of the Lam Group. Community members mourned the loss of what some consider "the last remnant of Pearl Street's commercial heyday," according to the Express's report.
The five-story brick building located between Maiden Lane and Platt Street was declared unsafe for occupancy by the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) after developers excavating and pile driving at a nearby site caused the building's façade to crack back in August 2007. Since that time, the DOB found that the building was actually tipping south and later discovered that the roof was displaced by about an inch to the south relative to the foundation, which proved that the building was still shifting, reports the Express.
After initial attempts to repair the building's façade, developers came to the conclusion that demolition of the site was inevitable. Considerations were paid to preserving the façade, but maintaining it just as it stood prior to the damage incurred in August was deemed technically impossible, according to the group director of the New York Landmarks Conservancy Robert Lang. The group is now asking developers to conserve the bricks from the original façade in order to incorporate the old materials into the new building, according to the Express's report.
New School for Battery Park City Still Drawing Applause from Community
November 22nd: The announcement of Battery Park City's new school continues to be met with applause this week by members of the community, city and state officials, and the local New York media. With overcrowding in schools reaching an all-time high in the city, many young students have been forced to make long commutes -- some as much as two hours roundtrip -- just to get to school, according to a report in the Downtown Express.
The new school could not come at a better time as the district in which it is located (District 2) is in desperate need of about 3,000 new school seats. The new school will accommodate 950 new seats from pre-K to eighth grade, making up about one-third of the total needed for the area, which is comprised mostly of Lower Manhattan, but also includes parts of the Upper East Side. Of the total 950 seats, the school will offer 100 of those seats to special education students.
The new school will not only provide much needed relief for seriously overcrowded schools like P.S. 89, but it will also mark the city's first "green" school building. With more details about the design and construction plans for the building surfacing last week, we now know that the future 9-story building will include 40 classrooms, wireless Internet throughout the building, a 5,400 square-foot gym, a library, and multiple music and art rooms.
Additionally, everything from the construction of the building to the final product will be eco-friendly. Builders will be responsible for recycling 80 percent of construction waste, according to a report in the Downtown Express. Additionally, solar panels, increased insulation, and occupancy sensors plus the use of natural light will all help to reduce the total energy costs by 25 percent, reports the Express. There is no word yet on how much the school at 55 Battery Place will cost to build, but the site is expected to be fully vacated by May 2008 in order for construction to begin on time in June.