October 14th - October 20th, 2005
Officials Set Height for WTC Memorial Plaza, Clear Way for Site Development
Saturday, October 15: After months of testing, rebuilding officials set the height for the World Trade Center Memorial plaza, marking a key milestone in the entire WTC site's development, the New York Times reported.
According to developers, the elevation of the plaza will stand 313 feet above an underground benchmark known as the World Trade Center Downtown Restoration Program Datum -- an imaginary horizontal plane reaching 297.347 feet below sea level against which the entire WTC construction project will be measured, the Times explained.
The determination of the plaza's height is critical for development of the WTC site as a whole and allows for final construction drawings to move forward. In establishing the 313-foot mark, rebuilding officials were challenged not only by the slope of the site -- which gradually dips down more than 20 feet as it approaches the Hudson River -- but also by its impact on the design of surrounding structures, including the Freedom Tower, the WTC PATH terminal, and surrounding streets and sidewalks, the paper said.
Plans for WTC Memorial Museum Considered
Tuesday, October 18: Plans for the World Trade Center Memorial Museum include two vastly different exhibits -- one offering a fact-based account of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the other proposing an "immersive" exhibit that would endeavor to recreate the experience of 9/11 by simulating moments of the attack on the Twin Towers through actual recordings and images of the falling towers, the Associated Press reported.
According to the proposed plans, the museum might also include an "iconic artifact" -- such as a large piece of steel from the trade center -- near the entrance, as well as an area to mark the spot of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Mementos, like employee ID cards, china from the Windows on the World Restaurant, and images of the Twin Towers along the New York City skyline, would also be included, as would a separate room where visitors could contribute to the museum by leaving written messages or drawings, AP explained.
Developed in collaboration with 9/11 family members, rescue workers, survivors, and neighborhood residents, the plans have been presented in public workshops over the past month and are still under review by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the agency overseeing the rebuilding process. "These are evolving ideas that we will continue to discuss as we move forward," LMDC President Stefan Pryor told AP.
The World Trade Center Memorial Museum is not scheduled to open for another five years, AP added.
Compromise Suggested for Commemoration of 9/11 Remains at Fresh Kills
Tuesday, October 18: A Manhattan federal judge recommended a compromise in the ongoing battle between the City of New York and a group of family members of 9/11 victims, suggesting the sides agree to use only some of the Ground Zero debris deposited at Fresh Kills landfill for the memorial park at the new World Trade Center site, the Post reported.
The suggestion came during a hearing in the federal lawsuit filed by the World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial. The city has proposed leaving the debris -- which is estimated to contain 48,000 tons of material from Ground Zero, including small fragments of human remains -- at the Staten Island landfill and building a memorial there. The families argue that all of the remains deserve a more proper resting place, the paper explained.
While acknowledging the grief of the victims' families, Judge Alvin Hellerstein suggested that family members think "symbolically" and consider moving "part of what was landfill and now is more hallowed ground" to another site, the Post said.
Both sides have agreed to work together on the idea and report on their progress by December 8, the paper added.
$245 Million in 9/11 Loans Reported Default
Tuesday, October 18: An estimated $245 million in loans issued by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to companies affected by the September 11, 2001, attacks have fallen into default, the Associated Press reported.
Following 9/11, the agency lent $1.2 billion to more than 10,000 companies that filed for financial assistance. Of that amount, $245 million have been considered to be in default by the SBA, meaning that they have either been charged off or liquidated or are more than 60 days delinquent, AP explained.
SBA officials have written off less than $10 million of the default total and will endeavor to recover much of the remaining sum by collecting collateral, negotiating settlements with borrowers, or bringing delinquent loans up to date, AP added.
Public Plaza Unveiled at 55 Water Street
Wednesday, October 19: After three years of renovations totaling $7 million, the elevated public plaza at 55 Water Street was officially rededicated and opened to the public, the New York Times reported.
Designed by Roger Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Landscape architect, the new East River waterfront plaza features an iconic, 50-foot-high glass lantern called the "Beacon of Progress." The plaza's entrance has also been altered, its former dimly lit escalator and staircase replaced with a series of smaller stairways and four shorter escalators accentuated with terraces and scenic overlooks. The plaza can also be reached by elevator, the paper explained.
"The designers have transformed a forbidding escalator into a celebratory and wonderfully imaginative ascent," Amanda M. Burden, the chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, told the Times.
The plaza itself features an inclined surface resembling a dune adorned with plantings and grasses that lead to a boardwalk made of ipe -- a Brazilian hardwood -- paralleling the East River. A new lawn blanketed with artificial grass and a seven-tiered concrete amphitheater will also be the site of at least 12 public events a year, according to the City Planning Commission, the paper said.
One of the few privately owned public spaces in the city, the 55 Water Street plaza had been plagued with design problems and erratic maintenance since its opening in 1972. When plans for a new Goldman Sachs building for the site fell through in 2001, the building's owner -- Retirement Systems of Alabama -- announced that it would renovate the plaza, the Times noted.
Chinese Property Dealer Eyes 7 WTC
Wednesday, October 19: Beijing Vantone Real Estate Co., one of China's largest private real estate developers, is in negotiations to lease a site at the soon-to-be-completed 7 World Trade Center, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The company has requested a 10-year lease to rent 200,000 square feet of office space in the 52-story tower -- the first to be completed at the World Trade Center. According to Beijing Vantone, it plans to build a "Chinese business center" in Lower Manhattan that would ultimately create a hub for Chinese businesses establishing offices in the United States, the paper explained.
According to the Partnership of New York City, a business advocacy group, Beijing Vantone began looking for locations in New York City in June 2004. The company is still in negotiations with WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein for the space at 7 WTC, the Journal added.
Memorial Foundation Raises More Than $101 Million
Thursday, October 20: After six months of seeking private donations, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation has raised more than $101 million to fund the World Trade Center Memorial, John C. Whitehead, the foundation's chairman, announced at a press conference. The monies raised came from private donors, foundations, corporations, and contributions from individuals, schools, and businesses from 38 states and seven countries. The foundation's goal is to reach $500 million to build the memorial, "Reflecting Absence," by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker. For more information, click here.