March 11, 2005,
Friday, March 11 marks three and a half years since September 11. In the 42 months since Islamo-fascists attacked the U.S.A, plenty has transpired. America and its allies cleansed Afghanistan of the pro-terrorist Taliban. A U.S.-led coalition of 46 nations liberated terrorist-coddling Baathist Iraq. Libya ditched its atomic dreams. Competitive elections have exploded across the Middle East from Afghanistan, to Gaza, to Iraq, to Saudi Arabia, and soon, Lebanon, and Egypt. And the once-smoldering Pentagon now appears unscathed.
But in Lower Manhattan where Muslim fanatics triggered this chain of events little has changed. In lieu of the mighty Twin Towers, a cold, gray hole scars Gotham’s skyline. This is a national disgrace.
Developer Larry Silverstein, who purchased the World Trade Center on July 24, 2001, has substituted the collapsed 7 WTC with an attractive, 52-story building. The adjacent Twin Towers site leased to Silverstein, but controlled by New York’s hapless Republican governor, George Elmer Pataki has gone nowhere.
The Freedom Tower, museum builder Daniel Libeskind’s first skyscraper, is virtually paralyzed by financial, engineering, and ethics headaches.
The Freedom Tower has no signed tenants. Sales may lag because companies are unimpressed with a 70-floor building where the 110-story Twin Towers stood. This veritably trembling “Fear Tower” concedes our enemies’ claims that the WTC affronted Allah.
While insurance awards could leave Silverstein up to $4.6 billion, he remains at least $2.4 billion short of the WTC’s estimated $7 billion redevelopment cost. Subtract Silverstein’s $10 million monthly lease payments, huge legal bills, and more, and he may have even less for construction.
The Freedom Tower’s spire is Libeskind’s abstract salute to Lady Liberty’s torch. Supervising architect David Childs kept it, even as he brightened Libeskind’s ghoulish blueprints. This may prove unfortunate. The spire, which adorns several wind turbines atop the Freedom Tower, may quiver in stiff gales. Local stations also worry that the off-center decoration may falter as a broadcast transmitter.
Pataki is considering sinking eight-lane West Street beneath a proposed ground-level park. This would force Verizon to relocate multi-million-dollar underground telecom gear that would block the ensuing tunnel. Verizon estimates that moving other nearby cables could delay construction for two years, even if Pataki spares Gotham a Beantown-style Big Dig.
Journalists are asking why Libeskind, an obscure theoretical architect who lacked a U.S. license until July 2003, ever got tapped to replace the WTC. On September 26, 2002, makeup magnate Ronald Lauder, a Libeskind booster and Pataki appointee, donated $30,000 to Friends of Pataki. The same day, his wife, Jo, gave FOP $28,000, while their daughter, Jane, donated $10,000. That was the date Pataki’s Lower Manhattan Development Corporation chose semi-finalists for its Innovative Design Study from 407 entries. Shazzam! Libeskind was among those seven.
When an LMDC panel eventually recommended Rafael Vinoly’s twin-latticework design (dubbed “THINK”), Pataki reportedly pressed the LMDC to think harder and pick Libeskind which they dutifully did.
With 9/11’s fourth anniversary just six months away, this fiasco’s solution is the same as it ever was: Resurrect the Twin Towers, bigger and better than before.
In a February 25 Internet survey, 3,483 respondents told MSNBC what should grow in Lower Manhattan: 20 percent backed the Freedom Tower, and 80 percent supported new Twin Towers.
“While online polls are not ‘scientific,’” MSNBC’s David Shuster told readers, “the results, I believe, are important. Ground Zero is hallowed ground. And the fact is, an overwhelming percentage of you hate the current plans.”
Pataki and Silverstein should abandon the star-crossed, patently unloved Freedom Tower. Instead, they should adopt architect Herbert Belton’s and structural engineer Ken Gardner’s proposal for new, 115-story Twin Towers. Belton, who worked on the original WTC, has drafted blueprints for this project. Impressive models for it already stand tall, thanks to Gardner. He has performed similar services for the new Time-Warner Center, several Trump initiatives, and the late Philip Johnson’s final effort: an “urban glass house” in Manhattan.
Structural advancements; additional and wider staircases; and fireproof elevators all would boost safety compared to the late Twins. A mid-level hotel and high-rise luxury apartments, whose balconies would open onto an indoor atrium within each tower, should alleviate concerns about oversupplying office space.
Belton’s and Gardner’s thoughtful memorial preserves the WTC’s footprints by using salvaged steel skin from the destroyed Towers to reconstruct the two buildings’ bottom five stories. Within each footprint, 44 flags would represent the nations whose citizens al-Qaeda murdered, and granite tablets would enshrine their names.
Had savages destroyed the Empire State Building, the Capitol, or the White House, the restoration of those icons surely would be underway. Rather than Pataki’s time-wasting architectural beauty contest, rebuilding the Twin Towers should have begun the moment the last pebble of debris was plucked from the crime scene. Before this country squanders more time and national honor fiddling with the Pataki-Libeskind Fear Tower, Americans should demand the disposal of this high-rise dog’s breakfast. Instead, Herbert Belton’s and Ken Gardner’s new and improved Twin Towers should rise like the Stars and Stripes above Ground Zero.
Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.