November 12th - November 18th, 2004
NIST Nears Completion of WTC Study
Friday, November 12: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced that its construction advisory committee will hold a 10-hour meeting on November 22 at its Maryland headquarters to discuss its investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center, limiting the public session to only the first two hours, the New York Times reported.
Despite protests from 9/11 victims' advocacy groups, the NIST -- a federal agency that has been studying the construction of the WTC and the 9/11 attacks in hopes of determining the causes of its collapse -- decided to close the majority of the meeting to the public due to concerns that its preliminary findings could influence the building industry and the development of codes before the report is finalized, the paper said.
After more than two years of investigations, the NIST is scheduled to release a draft of its final report in January. While the agency will not have the power to enact new building and construction codes, its report is intended to guide the revision of current codes to better plan for the number of required escape staircases needed in skyscrapers, the strength of materials, and the quality of fireproofing, among other parameters, the Times noted.
Plans for WTC Park Are Revealed
Friday, November 12: Plans for a new park to be located at the north end of the new World Trade Center site were unveiled to the public, depicting an open triangular space filled with plants, flowers, and trees, among other features, the New York Times reported.
Scheduled to be completed by early 2006, the three-quarter-acre park will be the first new public space to be created at the new WTC site. The park, which will be located at the convergence of Greenwich Street and West Broadway, will serve as an open public space, as well as the forecourt to the already underway 7 World Trade Center, the Times said.
Designed by Ken Smith Landscape Architect in collaboration with 7 WTC architect David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the new park will feature azaleas, plant beds, marble benches, flags, and a circular fountain. The design features allow for the park to remain open but still protected from vehicles without the use of security barricades, the paper noted.
It is estimated that the park will cost $3.5 million, and it will be maintained by 7 WTC developer Silverstein Properties, the Times added.
Lawyers Deliver Closing Statements in Second WTC Insurance Trial
Monday, November 15: After a month of deliberations, lawyers began delivering closing arguments during the final days of litigation between World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein and nine insurers on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Silverstein attorney Bernard Nussbaum argued that the 9/11 attacks consisted of two separate incidents, thus entitling Silverstein to receive two separate insurance payouts. But lawyers for the defense contend that Silverstein is entitled to only one payment because, according to language in the contract between the two sides, the event constituted a single incident, AP explained.
If the jury rules in his favor, Silverstein stands to collect a double insurance payout from each insurer involved in the trial -- totaling an additional $1.1 billion, AP noted.
Earlier this year, a separate jury ruled that the collapse of the Twin Towers was a single event based on language outlined in the contract between the two sides, limiting Silverstein's insurance payout to a single payment of $3.5 billion.
NY Waterway Warns Employees of Looming Closure
Tuesday, November 16: Ferry operator New York Waterway announced its plans to notify employees that they may be terminated if the financially unstable company is forced to close, the Associated Press reported.
According to Weehawken, New Jersey, Mayor Richard Turner, the Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA) is considering acquiring the company should it be forced to close. Neighboring cities Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City would then assume control of the company's ferry routes between Hudson County and New York City, the AP said.
Should the HCIA take over the ferry service, some routes may be cancelled or rescheduled. Already, New York Waterway has decided to cancel its services between Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City and the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, the AP added.
The country's largest privately-owned ferry service, New York Waterway increased ferry service to replace the PATH train to Lower Manhattan, which was closed after the 9/11 attacks. Since the reopening of the World Trade Center PATH station last December, the ferry operator has witnessed a dramatic drop in ridership.
Companies Take Advantage of Incentives and Flock Downtown
Wednesday, November 17: According to the Alliance for Downtown New York, nearly 50 companies and organizations have relocated from midtown to Lower Manhattan in the past two years, the New York Times reported.
According to the paper, rents in midtown reach an average of $50 per square foot, compared to an average of $35 per square foot in Lower Manhattan. Combined with several of the remaining federal and state assistance and incentive programs -- which decrease rents by an additional $7 per square foot, companies and organizations are saving a substantial amount downtown, the paper said.
According to the Alliance, the businesses and organizations that relocated from midtown in the past two years alone are leasing a combined 1.3 million square feet of downtown office space, the Times added.
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Delivers $7 Billion
Thursday, November 18: The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund issued its final report, providing details of how it distributed $7 billion to qualifying applicants, as well as demographics of the victims and the length of time required to distribute the funds to each of its recipients, the New York Times and Associated Press reported.
According to the 114-page report, the average amounted awarded by the fund to families of those killed during the 9/11 attacks was $2.1 million, with individual awards ranging from $250,000 to $7.1 million, the AP said. Injured victims received an average payment of $400,000. The fund's largest single payment totaled $8.6 million, the Times said.
The fund's special master, Kenneth R. Feinberg, noted in the report that while the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was an "unqualified success," it might have been better "to provide the same amount for all eligible applicants" than to assign a different monetary value to each victim. Feinberg, who worked free of charge to administer the funding, also recommended that the federal government consider devising a different type of program in the event of similar incidents in the future, the Times said.
The federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which was established by Congress to compensate victims' families and protect the airline industry from impending litigation, guaranteed a minimum of $250,000 to qualifying applicants. By its December 2003 deadline, the fund received applications from 2,880 of the 2,973 death claims and more than 2,680 injury claims, the Times added.
Snøhetta Begins Design for WTC Museum Complex
Thursday, November 18: Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta is developing its design for the 275,000-square-foot World Trade Center museum complex, the New York Times reported.
While no information has been given about Snøhetta's plan, the firm's website reports that its design will be "unimposing yet memorable," the Times said. The museum complex will house the Drawing Center and the much larger International Freedom Center.
While Snøhetta creates its design, rebuilding officials, as well as many of the architects involved in the creation of the new World Trade Center site, are discussing the complex's impact on the entire WTC site. In accordance with WTC master designer Daniel Libeskind's plan, the complex is slated to reside between the WTC memorial, a performing arts center, and Santiago Calatrava's WTC PATH station and transportation hub, the paper explained.
Calatrava, among others, has proposed that the museum complex be relocated from its planned location to the southwest corner of Liberty and West Streets. The proposal would be in accordance with WTC memorial designer Michael Arad's original request to have no structures within the memorial area. Currently, there is no plan to relocate the museum complex, the Times added.
Pace Downtown Index Reveals Continuing Upsurge in Downtown Economy
Thursday, November 18: The Pace Downtown Index (PDI) -- the first comprehensive economic indicator for Lower Manhattan -- shows a continuing upward trend for the downtown economy for a 14th consecutive month.
The PDI is determined by tracking economic progress as a weighted average of four variables, two representing activities in the financial markets and two representing the commercial real estate market and the city's overall economy. The selected variables are the S&P 500 Index, the Federal Funds Rate, the total commercial real estate inventory in Lower Manhattan, and the Gross Lower Manhattan Product.
The latest PDI released registers at 98.08 for October, an increase of 0.02 percent from last month and 2.07 percent from September 2003.
Pace University's Center for Downtown New York (CDNY), with assistance from the Mayor's Office and the Alliance for Downtown New York, developed the PDI. On the third Thursday of each month, Pace announces the latest PDI and posts a full report on the PDI webpage.