Construction at Ground Zero

Construction at Ground Zero

Why is it now called the World Trade Center site?

The renaming came after the New York mayor Michael Bloomberg urged the city to move past a term long linked with the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers destruction.

The tower block was opened in November 2014.

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The Ground Zero Mosque Project Is Back

A sinister project now advancing under cover of darkness.

“The Ground Zero Mosque Project Is Back,” by Pamela Geller, American Thinker, December 16, 2019:

The news was buried under two dense paragraphs and five large photos in an article in New York YIMBY about a different project: “Construction has also yet to begin on 51 Park Place, which is slated to become a 71-foot-tall, 16,000-square-foot Islamic cultural center.” The infamous Ground Zero Mosque project, a long buried effort to build a triumphal mosque at the site of the worst jihad terror attack in American history, is back.

Construction has yet to begin, but it will: the shady developer behind the Ground Zero Mosque scheme, Sharif El-Gamal, has been working to build this sinister structure for years.

We defeated the Ground Zero Mosque project once before. The 16-story mosque that El-Gamal initially planned to build there has not been built. Our efforts in showing what an insult it was to the American people and to the victims of 9/11, and how many Muslims worldwide would inevitably view it as a triumphal mosque built on the site of a jihad attack, defeated it. Tens of thousands of people came out for our rallies in lower Manhattan against this celebration of this 9/11 attacks, and El-Gamal was beaten in the court of public opinion.

It was a long battle. President Obama announced his support for the mosque at an Iftar dinner, no less. Then-mayor of New York City and current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg supported the mosque as well, claiming hysterically that “if we don’t build it, the terrorists will win!” The media actively campaigned for it — the elites in their increasingly fragile ivory towers relentlessly stumped for the Cordoba mosque (euphemistically called an Islamic center with a prayer space) for years.

And yet despite all this opposition and much more, the people stood up and fought the Ground Zero Mosque and won. An army of Davids.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Crains New York reported on El-Gamal’s new project in 2015 in a story that demonstrated how the developer was hoping to sneak his triumphal mosque into existence: “Mr. El-Gamal’s Soho Properties has proposed a 667-foot condominium tower at lower Manhattan’s 45 Park Place. The glass skyscraper, which has yet to break ground, will include at least 15 full-floor units of 3,200 to 3,700 square feet, and average prices higher than $3,000 a square foot, according to plans released to Bloomberg by the developer.”

That sounded normal enough. But then the article added: “Adjacent to the tower, Soho Properties will build a public plaza connected to a three-story Islamic museum and prayer space.” An Islamic prayer space is a mosque. The article also said: “An Islamic museum ‘is just as much of an insult,’ Pamela Geller, a blogger and one of the center’s most vocal opponents, wrote in an email. ‘It will be like having a museum touting the glories of the Japanese Empire at Pearl Harbor.'”

I think an Islamic museum at Ground Zero dedicated to the half-billion victims of jihadi wars, land appropriations, sharia, cultural annihilations, enslavements, and sharia enforcement is an excellent idea, but is that what Sharif El-Gamal had in mind? Of course not. And how did El-Gamal plan to finance this? The answer was predictable. The New York Post reported in May 2016 that “the developer of the failed Ground Zero Mosque has nailed down ‘Sharia-compliant financing’ for a new, luxury condominium tower and Islamic cultural museum on the same site, he and his banking partners said.”

Then in May 2017, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Condo Tower to Rise Where Muslim Community Center Was Proposed.” The Times said that 󈬝 Park Place, a 43-story condominium that will soon rise three blocks from the World Trade Center,” was “something of a consolation prize for the developer,” as it “replaces the developer’s 2010 plan to build a 15-story Islamic mosque and cultural center on this site, an idea that erupted into a national controversy and cable news network bonanza.”

In the last couple of years, there has been virtually no news about this “Islamic museum.” But the New York YIMBY story shows that the project has been advancing under cover of darkness. A 71-foot-tall structure is three stories high, as in the revised plans announced in 2015.

El-Gamal has many friends and allies among New York City’s political and media elites. It is likely that de Blasio city officials and the New York Times and other city papers all met with El-Gamal and agreed to keep the reporting on this project to an absolute minimum, so that it could get built without incurring the righteous anger of the public again. The first time around, they courted publicity and tried to make El-Gamal a hero. We demolished that and destroyed their plans. So now they’ve clearly decided to go ahead surreptitiously.

It is disgusting that El-Gamal continues to taunt Americans and poke at America’s most egregious recent memory. El-Gamal was there when we had tens of thousands in the streets opposing his Ground Zero mosque. He knows how angry and upset people get at these Islamic structures on the site of jihad war. The 9/11 Muslim terrorists extolled Allah no fewer than 90 times in their last letters. Will those letters be on display at this Islamic cultural center/museum?

There is an important lesson to be learned here — and one we would be wise to adopt. They never stop. No matter how absolutely they lose, how many setbacks they suffer, they keep on pursuing their supremacist goals.

The Ground Zero Mosque project was and is a middle finger to the American people. There has never been a mosque of reconciliation and healing built on the site of a jihadi attack. Ever. It is, on the other hand, an Islamic pattern to build triumphal mosques on the cherished sites of conquered lands. History is riddled with triumphal mosques built on the sites of jihad attacks or appropriated from other religions: the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, and innumerable mosques built on the sites of Hindu temples that were demolished by Muslims all attest to that.

And now it looks as if Sharif El-Gamal is going to be able to build his own triumphal mosque at Ground Zero after all.

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Why Ground Zero Is Perfect Just as It Is Right Now

New York City is — along with Las Vegas, Beijing, Disney World and Dubai — one of the most conspicuously constructed places on earth. This puts the city squarely in line with America’s national myth: we are the world’s youngest empire, built out of nothing, right in front of everyone’s eyes. Not that this is exactly unique — every nation, obviously, has to be built. But America bloomed so late and so fast in the grand scheme of history that we’re in the unusual position of having witnessed our construction. We have photos of most of the iconic monuments going up: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore. Whereas there are no photos, obviously, of the building of the Roman aqueducts or of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame or of the Egyptian pyramids or of the Great Wall of China. Their formations are buried in legend or preserved in scraps of distant history — nothing you can sink your eyes into. America is the civilization that has always shown its work.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, as I’m sure many people have, about construction: structures going up, coming down, going up again. Over the last 10 years, this has become not just a theoretical problem — a question of real estate booms and architectural trends — but a visceral one: in the collapse of Haiti, the giant dams and three-mile-high railroads of China, the flooding of Pakistan, the villages burned down in Darfur, the steady rain of bombs over Iraq and Afghanistan, the empty boom-era houses in California, the abandoned city center of Detroit and, of course, the tsunamis of Indonesia and Japan. It’s like humanity has lost some basic link between life and habitation, sanity and structure.

A couple of weeks ago, on a day that felt like the official hinge between summer and fall, I made a pilgrimage down to ground zero, the most vexed building site in America, to see what was happening there.

One of the strange things about visiting the World Trade Center, 10 years later, is that it forces you to look at construction — because that’s all it currently is. And construction, by nature, doesn’t like to be seen: it prefers to be transparent, to make you look past it, to imagine only the thing that it’s making. Ground zero, then, is a sightseeing paradox — an antispectacle that’s impossible to look away from. It’s like Berlin in the late 1990s, when one of the big attractions was the old wall zone, promoted as the world’s largest construction site, complete with virtual tours of what everything was going to look like 10 years later.

On my visit to the World Trade Center, there was nothing immediately recognizable as the World Trade Center. Most of the site was surrounded by a chain-link fence, which was topped with barbed wire, Berlin Wall-style, and hung with endless computer-generated mockups of what it would all look like months or years from now. Tourism was forced to adjust to this arid climate, and — like a hawk nesting in a skyscraper — it did. The most popular spot seemed to be a huge window at the World Financial Center that gave a panoramic view of the work site: pipes and rebar, port-a-potties, stacks of concrete tubes with the proportions of rigatoni, a yellow tractor in an underground hole, buildings covered in black nets and, above it all, the slow-motion industrial drama of the cranes, dipping their brontosaural heads behind the fenceline, then raising them up swinging big hunks of metal.

I tagged along, for a while, with a tour group and managed to learn a few things. For instance, that One World Trade Center — a mirrored skyscraper — is currently around 80 stories high in two years, when it’s done, it will be the tallest building in New York. There’s currently a branch of Subway sandwiches at the top so workers don’t have to come to the ground to eat. I learned that the windows of the twin towers were washed by a robot in a continuous cycle that took a full month. I learned that the 1993 basement bomb was meant to topple one tower into the other, that their collapse in 2001 created 300-mile-an-hour winds, that it took eight months to clean up the rubble and that of the more than 20,000 body parts that were found, only half have been identified. By the end of the tour, a good percentage of the group was openly crying.

By chance, my trip to ground zero came on an unusual day. I was standing a little north of the new skyscraper, watching workers on the street lay pipe in a big underground trough, when suddenly the sidewalk — in violation of all the laws of sidewalkery — started to move. A light rain of gravel fell onto my head from the roof of the building next to me. At first I assumed this was because of the construction — that the subterranean work had somehow liquefied the street — but the workers seemed baffled, too. I asked a chef who came running out of an Italian restaurant where the shaking had come from. He seemed to search for the right English word before giving up and answering, “The world.” It turned out to have been an earthquake in Virginia that resonated all the way to Ohio.

In Lower Manhattan, the earthquake created an atmosphere like 9/11 lite: another perfect blue Tuesday, another inexplicable disruption that sent everyone pouring out of their buildings. This was obviously exponentially less intense, but the crowds on the sidewalks still talked in that special tone reserved for communal disaster. Cellphone circuits were jammed, so everyone was forced to process the event together, out loud, with the living humans right around them.

I overheard an elevator repairman trying to persuade two co-workers to get into their van and leave Manhattan: “We’ll be the first ones hit by the tsunami,” he kept telling them. I overheard people speculating about which downtown buildings were least likely to fall they seemed to agree on One World Trade Center and the post office. I heard approximately 700 people say the word “aftershocks.”

It seemed suddenly excellent, in that moment of involuntary eavesdropping, to be walking through such a hyperconstructed city — to be able to dip, with no special effort, into this abundance of other human lives. It reminded me of something I read about New York’s first European settlers: that they described Manhattan as a wild green paradise, with oysters the size of dinner plates flocks of birds so dense they darkened the sky and rivers so thick with fish that you could pull them out by hand.

In exchanging that natural density for this unnatural density, we’ve lost quite a lot. But the result has been an equally amazing abundance: the ability, on any given day, to walk down the street harvesting the richness of all the different kinds of humans that live on the planet, their stories and accents and hairstyles and behaviors. It’s a different thrill that satisfies a completely different part of the brain. And it’s entirely a product of this urge to endlessly construct: to stack humans on top of one another, thousands of feet in the air, in microenvironments that are both fragile and strong.

After the earthquake, everyone on the street was debating whether to go back to their offices. The workers at the World Trade Center site, though, had barely paused. The twin towers were the biggest construction project in American history: the tallest expression of a vernacular architecture designed to be, above all, tall. It seems appropriate that, 10 years later, here on the street, ground zero is a perpetual construction zone. That’s a more potent symbol than any possible finished product.

Ground Zero: Before the Fall

ON a hilly spot, near the edge of the Hudson River shoreline, Jan Jansen Damen used a horse-drawn plow to turn up the sandy soil in the late 1630's as he carefully laid out a farm on the small chunk of the New World that he had been allotted by the Dutch West India Company.

Next Sunday, on that same patch of Lower Manhattan land, Gov. George E. Pataki and other dignitaries will gather for another groundbreaking: the start of the construction of the Freedom Tower, the centerpiece of the new World Trade Center.

The extraordinary calamity that unfolded on the site on Sept. 11, 2001, dominates the nearly four centuries of history separating these two groundbreakings. But the stories that stretch out in between, the stories of the men and women who occupied that land and of the way it has been worked and reworked again and again, are in many ways as big as New York itself.

From early on, this land has been associated with bloodshed: Damen, for example, its first European owner, played a critical role in a decision by the early Dutch colonists to massacre Indians living at two nearby settlements, igniting two years of warfare.

It is history that has also been marred before by ravenous fires, like an inferno in 1776 that destroyed every one of the dozens of homes on the site.

The land has also been a place of momentous celebrations, like the one in 1807, when Robert Fulton launched the world's first commercial steamship ferry from the foot of Cortlandt Street, revolutionizing the way people and goods traveled across the region and even around the globe.

Perhaps most important, it is on the same 16 acres where two towering temples to capitalism would one day be built that New York made its sometimes painful transition from a tiny colonial trading post to the most important metropolis in the world. By the 1850's, the once-rural spot had become an emporium of commerce, manufacturing and global transportation -- in other words, a true world trade center. Countless other events, many of modest significance, and others of lasting historical import, unfolded here -- including Civil War draft riots in 1863 and the inauguration of long-distance telephone service between New York and Chicago in 1892.

Taken from this perspective, what will take place next Sunday, while certainly a milestone for the site, is more like the turning of a page in an already extremely long book, one far older than the nation.

1643: Pioneers and Bloodshed

Jan Jansen Damen, who came from Holland around 1630 to help set up the new colony, was more than just a simple farmer. The first European owner of what would later become part of the World Trade Center site had much greater ambitions.

Like an early Donald Trump, Damen had a thirst for land and wealth. He pushed aggressively to secure commitments from the Dutch West India Company for grants or leases of property located just north of the barricade that was Wall Street. Below this barrier was all of settled New York, the land where the pioneers had built their crude, wooden-roofed homes.

When trouble came in the form of Indian attacks on settlers, the Dutch governor turned to Damen for advice, naming him in 1641 to New York's first local governing board, known as the Twelve Men.

The board's chairman, David Pietersen De Vries, urged Gov. Willem Kieft to be patient, as the tiny colony, with little in the form of arms or soldiers, was vulnerable and ''the Indians, though cunning enough, would do no harm unless harm were done to them.''

Damen did not agree. His land, at the edge of the settled area, was particularly vulnerable. In February 1643, accounts written at the time say, Damen and two other members of the Twelve Men entertained the governor with conversation and wine and reminded him that the Indians had not complied with his demands to make reparations for recent attacks. ''God having now delivered the enemy evidently into our hands, we beseech you to permit us to attack them,'' they wrote in Dutch, in a document that survives today.

DeVries tried to calm Governor Kieft: ''You go to break the Indians' heads it is our nation you are about to destroy.'' But the governor disagreed. It was time, he resolved, ''to make the savages wipe their chops.''

The assault, which took place about midnight on Feb. 25, 1643, in Jersey City, then called Pavonia, and at Corlears Hook, now part of the Lower East Side, was an extraordinarily gruesome affair. ''Infants were torn from their mothers' breasts and hacked to pieces,'' DeVries relates in his journal. Others '⟊me running to us from the country, having their hands cut off some lost both arms and legs some were supporting their entrails with their hands, while others were mangled in other horrid ways too horrid to be conceived.'' In all, more than 100 were killed.

The region's Indian tribes united against Governor Kieft and the colonists. Damen was nicknamed ''the church warden with blood on his hands,'' and expelled from the local governing board. The governor was ultimately recalled by the Dutch. The colony, over two years of retaliatory attacks, sank to a desperate state.

'ɺlmost every place is abandoned,'' a group of colonists wrote to authorities in Holland in late 1643. ''We, wretched people, must skulk, with wives and children that still survive, in poverty together, in and around the fort at the Manahatas, where we are not safe even for an hour whilst the Indians daily threaten to overwhelm us.''

Damen died about 1650. His heirs sold his property to two men: Oloff Stevensen Van Cortlandt, a brewer and one-time soldier in the Dutch West India militia, and Dirck Dey, a farmer and cattle brander. Their names were ultimately assigned to the streets at the trade center site. Damen's was lost to history.

1776: From Fire, a Wasteland

More than a century had passed since the war with the Indians. But as the wind blew hard one night in 1776, moving northwest across Lower Manhattan, another disaster was about to unfold.

The Dutch had long since lost control of New York and the site of the future trade center had taken a much more modern shape. The windmill that a Dutchman named Pieter Mesier had built there in 1682 still stood. But Church Street had been laid out prior to 1695, followed by Cortlandt Street in 1733 and Vesey Street, named after William Vesey, the first rector at Trinity Church, in 1761. On the southern end of the site, reflecting New York's status as a British colony, was Crown Street -- which was renamed Liberty Street in 1794.

Rows of small houses occupied by craftsmen and laborers had been built along these muddy, tree-lined streets. A sailboat ferry that departed from the foot of Cortlandt Street connected New York to Paulus Hook, New Jersey, where a two-day stagecoach could be taken to Philadelphia. The marshy land at the edge of Damen's old farm had been filled in, widening the island nearly to Washington Street.

On the windy night of Sept. 21, 1776, all this sense of order was destroyed.

Events started about 1 a.m. on the eastern side of Broadway, near Whitehall Slip. How the fire started was debated for years. Many blamed British soldiers who had occupied the city at the start of the Revolutionary War. Other suggested it was rebels, including Nathan Hale, who was executed for being a spy after being questioned about the fire.

In any case, the consequences were clear. The gusts fanned a small blaze and carried it north and west, toward the trade center site. As the fire crossed Broadway, Trinity Church fell to the flames.

The fire pushed across the houses lining Cortlandt, Dey and Vesey Streets. ''Several women and children perished in the fire, their shrieks, joined to the roaring of the flames, the crash of falling houses and the widespread ruin which everywhere appeared, formed a scene of horror grand beyond description, and which was still heightened by the darkness of night,'' read an account published in The New York Mercury.

The fire was not brought under control until nearly 11 a.m. the next day. From 500 to 1,000 homes, one quarter of the settled city, were ruined.

Reconstruction came, as it had before, but this time, it was not immediate. The site lay untouched for many years, and soon became known as the Burnt District.

Smoke again rose from the site one September morning in 1807, emanating from what onlookers described as some kind of a sea monster, hissing angrily and splashing about at the Cortlandt Street dock. But this smoke was a plume of progress.

There stood Robert Fulton, aboard the crazy invention that he promised would carry a ship full of passengers on an express trip up the Hudson River to Albany. The Clermont, as Fulton's craft would come to be called, was burning up pine knots as fuel and using the steam to turn a turbine that would paddle the vessel. But as skeptical passengers waited for the cruise to begin, Fulton, who had tried and failed before as an inventor with early models for a submarine and a torpedo, started to sweat. Black smoke poured from the chimney and the engine hissed. The boat lurched forward and stopped.

The chatter among the crowd was that the stunt would be a failure. But Fulton, standing proudly on the deck with eyes flashing, dismissed the naysayers. ''Gentlemen, you need not be uneasy you shall be in Albany before twelve oɼlock tomorrow.''

After a desperate adjustment of the machinery, the paddles started to turn. In that instant, the world shrank.

Fulton was not the first to build a steamship, but the first to turn a working steamship into a commercial venture. Though the steamboat did not fully replace the commercial sailboat for nearly a century, there at the trade center site, a fundamental shift in civilization had occurred.

Regular steamship service had now been established between the Cortlandt Street pier and Albany. Soon after, a string of other ferry services starting running to a variety of destinations. Piers were built all along the West Side, as steamships could more easily maneuver in the Hudson's open waters. By the middle of the 19th century, the site had become not just the launching point for short regional trips but also the embarkment spot for the nation and the world.

With tens of thousands of New Yorkers now traveling each year to the Hudson River waterfront, the homes built to replace the Burnt District were quickly being replaced themselves. Taller structures were rising, particularly during 1851, when traffic jams on Cortlandt and Dey grew so intense the city decided to widen the streets.

The new structures were only three or four stories tall. But on the once-sleepy riverside streets emerged an emporium unlike any the world had seen. For the steam engine was not just powering ferries: factories were now using machines to mass-produce goods. The Industrial Revolution had arrived, right at a spot that would one day be called ground zero.

Bigelow Company sold boilers at 85 Liberty, Brill & Lenihan sold pencil cases at 91 Liberty, Otis G. Barnap sold railroad supplies at 93 Liberty and Nathan & Dreyfus sold brass goods at 108 Liberty, while John A. Roebling's Sons Company, the builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, sold wire at 117-121 Liberty. By 1860, an astounding one-third of all exports from the United States and more than two thirds of the imports passed through New York, much of it at the nearby Hudson River piers.

If Liberty Street was a manufacturing mecca, Cortlandt Street was a precursor to Herald Square. Merchants like Richards Kingsland sold looking glasses, Ferdinand Thieriot sold pocket watches, Rea & Pollock sold stoves and S.H. Wakeman offered perfume. Squeezed in between were the barber shops and boarding houses, including one of the city's biggest and most renowned, the Old Merchant's Hotel, at 41 Cortlandt.

Others who set up shop included doctors like Dr. Ralph, at 38 Cortlandt Street, who specialized in cures to '⟎rtain delicate diseases,'' like syphilis and gonorrhea, and Madame Restell, at 148 Greenwich Street, who became the nation's most famous abortionist. Part of Church Street became notorious for its brothels.

But no single place at the site drew more traffic than the chaotic complex of buildings near the corner of Vesey and West Streets. The cluster had started in 1771 under the name Bear Market, with a handful of vendors, angry about being so far from the bustle of Broadway.

But by the mid-19th century, what was now known as Washington Market had morphed into not only the biggest market in the city, but the biggest wholesale produce market in the country. Some 886 different stands sold fish, meats, poultry, preserves, coffee, butter, eggs, fruit, nuts and countless other items. The spot was so popular that merchants erected shanties on the sidewalk and then into West Street, turning the city's most congested street into a narrow passageway.

Piles of oyster shells, rotting vegetables, putrid meat and fish, as well as tons of trash dumped from the ships and manure from horse-drawn carriages, produced an odor that in summer was unbearable. Blood and animal refuse, the byproduct of butchering, flowed into the sewers. 'ɺ plague spot demanding excision,'' the Metropolitan Board of Health declared in 1866, launching a campaign to clean up the market. This led to the opening of annexes on West Street further north, including the precursor to what is still called the meatpacking district.

Thanks to that burst of commerce, New Yorkers began to feel a certain bravado. The tiny Dutch colony had by 1870 hatched into a metropolis (comprising both New York and Brooklyn, still separate cities) of 1.3 million. Trinity Church, rebuilt twice since the 1776 fire, was still the city's tallest structure. But something called the office building was arriving on scene. Starting in 1890, when the New York World tower opened across Broadway from the trade center site, it was the first to grab the crown of ''world's tallest, '' which would be passed around the neighborhood. The course was now clear. New York was charging ahead, and its commercial towers, not its churches, would dominate the sky.

''We are not permitted to take a narrow view of its future greatness,'' said the New York Harbor Commission report of 1854. It seemed to the commission that New York's 'ɼommerce will be greater than that of any city in ancient or in modern times, that it must become the centre of trade and exchanges, the storehouse and metropolis of the commercial world.''

The Port Authority in the 1960's used just such breathless statements when it proposed the World Trade Center. 'ɺ new era of commerce will dawn on old Mannahatta when the Trade Center rises,'' a Port Authority brochure said, adding, ''the island and its people, however, are accustomed to new eras.''

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One World Trade Center: Construction Progress

Tomorrow will mark the 11th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. After years of effort and numerous setbacks, three of the proposed seven towers to be built at the World Trade Center complex have "topped out," reaching their structural maximum height. Seven WTC was completed in 2006, Four WTC topped out in June of this year, and the tallest, One World Trade Center (formerly known as Freedom Tower), just topped out at 104 floors on August 30. Financial difficulties have left the future of the remaining towers in doubt, and have raised concerns about the still-incomplete National September 11 Memorial and Museum, as the foundation that runs the memorial estimates that it will cost $60 million a year to operate. Gathered below are recent images of the rebuilding at ground zero in New York City.

One World Trade Center stands tall on the skyline of New York's Lower Manhattan as a man takes a picture from a pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, on September 9, 2012. The price tag for the skyscraper was valued at $3.8 billion earlier this year, making it the world's most expensive new office tower. Most of the cost overruns are due to the security measures being taken in the design of the building which sits on a site that has been bombed twice by terrorists. To offset the costs of One World Trade Center, which is being built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, higher bridge and tunnel tolls have been instated and there has been a reduction in spending on transportation infrastructure. The 1,776-foot skyscraper is expected to be completed by late 2013 or early 2014. #

An ironworker walks a beam at Three World Trade Center, Monday, June 25, 2012 in New York. The 72-floor, 977-foot tower is scheduled to open late next year. It's expected to be the first tower completed on the 16-acre site since the 9/11 attacks. #

Construction continues at the World Trade Center in New York, on July 19, 2012. The Vehicle Security Center is at left, and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is in the center. #

One World Trade Center, the central skyscraper at Ground Zero, under construction on January 30, 2012. #

The 9/11 Memorial, seen from the 90th story of One World Trade Center in New York, on April 30, 2012. #

One World Trade Center, viewed from the 72nd floor of Four World Trade Center, on September 7, 2012 in New York City. As New York City and the country prepare for the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, work proceeds at the former site of the World Trade Center Towers. The 16-acre site, which is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and is being rebuilt with developer Larry Silverstein, has a projected price tag of $14.8 billion. #

A view from the 71st floor of One World Trade Center of one of The National September 11 Memorial twin reflecting pools and visitors in New York, on April 30, 2012. #

US Marine Cpl. Mark Litynski of New Hope, Minnesota, looks up at One World Trade while visiting the 9/11 Memorial at ground zero in New York, on July 4, 2012. Litynski was visiting the memorial with other wounded veterans as a part of a trip organized by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is helping to build accessible homes for the wounded veterans. #

A view of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center (right) as seen from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center April 30, 2012. #

The base of one of the cranes used to raise heavy material stands inside the top floors of One World Trade Center as the building nears 100 stories tall in New York, on March 23, 2012. #

Construction workers move a piece of steel at the World Trade Center transportation hub in New York, on July 19, 2012. The hub, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, will connect suburban commuter trains with New York's subways. #

Construction continues beneath the arched columns of the East-West Corridor at the World Trade Center site, in New York, on September 7, 2012. The subterranean corridor will connect several buildings with the transportation hub. #

The under-construction One World Trade Center (center) stands over the World Trade Center construction site and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York's Lower Manhattan, on August 24, 2011. #

Ironworker Stephen MacGray cuts a steel brace at the World Trade Center construction site, on August 2, 2012. #

The 9/11 Memorial, during a ceremony for recovery workers and first responders on the 10-year anniversary of the formal end of cleanup operations at Ground Zero on May 30, 2012. Thousands of men and women came to Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to help with the recovery effort. Numerous first responders, including police and fire fighters, have subsequently been plagued with health issues many believe are related to the air they breathed in the weeks and months following the attacks. #

A full moon, as seen from West Orange, New Jersey, rises over the skyline of Lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York, on May 6, 2012. #

A square pool, center, at the National September 11 Memorial is surrounded by ongoing construction, Sunday, April 1, 2012 at the World Trade Center in New York. The steel framework, lower left, for the Vehicle Security Center rises next to the excavated area, lower center, of the former Deutsche Bank building. #

One World Trade Center, seen from the 72nd floor of Four World Trade Center on September 7, 2012 in New York City. #

Iron workers gather to rest on a partially finished floor near the top of One World Trade Center in New York, on April 30, 2012. #

The World Trade Center construction site, reflected in the windows of 4 World Trade Center in New York, on July 19, 2012. The National September 11 Memorial is upper left, and the transportation hub is upper right. #

An ironworker prepares a steel column before connecting another column at One World Trade Center on the day it became New York City's tallest skyscraper, Monday, April 30, 2012 in New York. #

A view from one of the top floors of the new One World Trade Center building, which is under construction on the site of the destroyed original World Trade Center, on April 30, 2012. The building is expected to reach its full height next year, when it will likely to be declared the tallest building in the United States and the third-tallest in the world. #

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama look down at the 9/11 Memorial while touring the One World Trade Center building in New York, on June 14, 2012. #

Ironworkers James Brady, left, and Billy Geoghan release the cables from a steel beam after connecting it on the 104th floor of One World Trade Center, on August 2, 2012 in New York. The beam was signed by President Barack Obama with the note: "We remember, We rebuild, We come back stronger!" during a ceremony at the construction site June 14. Since then the beam has been adorned with the autographs of workers and police officers at the site. #

One World Trade Center on the skyline of Lower Manhattan as people watch the sun set on the city of New York from a Pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, on September 9, 2012. #

An aerial view of One World Trade Center, backdropped by the Hudson River and New Jersey, towers over other buildings in Lower Manhattan, on August 31, 2012. #

Construction cranes work over the World Trade Center transportation hub in New York, on July 19, 2012. #

Signatures of officials and construction workers are written on the final steel beam to be installed on 4 World Trade Center during a ceremony to mark its installation in New York, on June 25, 2012. #

Construction workers, seen from the 72nd floor at Four World Trade Center on September 7, 2012 in New York City. #

One World Trade Center, center, rises above the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, on September 6, 2012 in New York. The World Financial Center is on the left, and Four World Trade Center is at right. #

The Tribute in Light for the Twin Towers illuminates the sky in Lower Manhattan near the One World Trade Center construction site, left, seen from Jersey City, New Jersey, in honor of the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on September 6, 2012. #

Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial walk around the two reflecting pools at the World Trade Center in New York, on April 1, 2012. #

The Statue of Liberty, with One World Trade Center lit up in red, white and blue in the background, two days ahead of the Fourth of July holiday as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey, on July 2, 2012. #

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GROUND ZERO: HISTORY Look Up, and Trade Center's Story Is Readable Again

Tourists attracted to ground zero by the abundance of Sept. 11 coverage may notice that the history panels are back. But this time they cannot be scribbled on.

The panels -- six-foot-wide depictions of the history of the World Trade Center site, its towers and their demise -- started going up on Sept. 11, 2002, when the new fence that ringed ground zero was dedicated. In June, the eye-level panels, which had grown in number to 30, were removed because they had been made nearly unreadable by graffiti, which collected exponentially on them.

While most of the messages were heartfelt expressions of regret and concern about the terrorist attacks, they nevertheless managed to obscure the panels' historic images and explanatory text, which included the architectural and commercial history of the site, the construction of the twin towers, the 1993 terrorist bombing and the 2001 attack.

Now, duplicates of the original panels are back, along with 40 new ones. They have been installed seven feet above the sidewalk on the upper zone of the $9 million fence of gridded galvanized steel, called the viewing wall, which was built last year.

Michael A. Petralia, chief of public and governmental affairs for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which paid more than $120,000 to create and install the panels, estimated that they are seen, on average, by more than 20,000 visitors a day. ''We're very proud of these panels because they are helping to tell a very important story,'' he said.

The forbidding landscape at ground zero is otherwise virtually devoid of explanation, except for historical exhibits at St. Paul's Chapel and in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center. ''Tourists are pouring down there, and most of them have no idea what was there before,'' said Kenneth R. Cobb, director of the New York City Municipal Archives, referring to trade center prehistory. He was not involved in the panel project. ''The panels give it all some kind of context and reality.''

Visitors say they are necessary. 'ɾveryone wants to understand what happened here, but we don't know much about the specifics,'' said Craig Gates, a 35-year-old custom-home salesman from Cleveland. He was craning upward to read the panels as he headed south at the ground zero vista on Church Street.

Carol Willis, director of the Skyscraper Museum in Manhattan, who provided most of the panels' images and caption information, said they 'ɺre a corrective to the souvenirs and the tchotchkes that have been sold down there.''

The panels are displayed on Church Street at the eastern edge of ground zero, and on Liberty Street at the south. They are a collaboration of the Port Authority, the Skyscraper Museum, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the design firm Pentagram, Mr. Petralia said. The panels were approved by neighborhood residents and trade center victims' families through the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

The panels chronicle everything from commerce on West Street in 1890 to the advent of the Singer Tower, the tallest building in the world in 1908. During the last week, panels have been installed that describe the attack on the Pentagon in Washington and the crash of the hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.

As construction of the PATH station on the site permits, seven more of the fiberglass panels are to be installed on the viewing wall, which replaced the humble chain-link fence and plywood barrier that screened visitors' views of the site for nearly a year after Sept. 11, 2001. More information on the panels, and itineraries of walking tours of Lower Manhattan, are available at the museum's Web site,

''Most people who visit the wall are with someone, so reading the panels becomes a communal activity,'' said Ms. Willis, the museum director.

This was true of Mr. Gates from Cleveland, who was viewing the panels with Jason Phlipot, 27, a colleague. They were unaware of the former graffiti problem until it was explained to them.

''I like the idea that they're up high, so they can't be written on,'' said Mr. Phlipot, squinting as he looked upward. 'ɻut I wish they could be lower, so theyɽ be a little easier to read.''

The Man Who's Rebuilding Ground Zero

Daniel Tishman remembers when his dad built the Twin Towers. John Tishman was the chairman of Tishman Construction, the family-owned, New York-based construction company contracted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to build the World Trade Center. It was the 1960s, and Dan would accompany his dad to the site. He remembers the excavation process best, when the towers’ foundations were carved out of the Lower Manhattan coastline around the PATH train system, a rail-based public transit line between Manhattan and New Jersey that had been established years before. “There was a time when they were building all of the foundation walls and the trains were sort of suspended in thin air in the hole. … It was like looking at these tiny little tubes that acted as bridges suspended across the site,” he recalls.

Actual construction on the seven-building complex began in 1966. The site opened officially to the public in spring of 1973, debuting the Twin Towers – the world’s tallest buildings. The last building, 7 World Trade Center, was completed in 1987. Once finished, the huge 16-acre project’s cost was nearly $1 billion, according to a report by the New York City Comptroller, and the more than one million cubic yards of fill were used to extend Lower Manhattan’s coastline and create the Battery Park City neighborhood.

After terrorists flew two hijacked planes into the buildings on Sept. 11, 2001, the city, the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein, the real estate developer that had signed a 99-year lease for the World Trade Center six short weeks before the attacks, set to work assessing damage and deliberating over what to do with the smoldering ruin. Years of political, legal and financial battles later, a plan emerged for a memorial plaza, a museum, a new transportation hub, and five new state-of-the-art office buildings. The team called in Tishman Construction, now headed by Daniel Tishman, who was and still is chairman and chief executive of the company, despite having sold it to AECOM Technology for $245 million in 2010.

More than 40 years after the original Trade Center’s ground breaking, the young man who had accompanied his dad to the construction site was back there again – this time as the builder. As construction on the new One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, began, he found himself staring once again down into a familiar-looking hole: a renewed excavation site dissected by train tracks. “Never in my or anyone’s wildest imagination did we think we would be rebuilding the towers, let alone that I would have the opportunity to be the builder of something my father had built 40 years before,” reflects Tishman, a native New Yorker.

Tishman Construction is overseeing construction for all but one of the new structures. The company is construction manager for 1 World Trade Center (Tower 1), 4 World Trade Center (Tower 4), 3 World Trade Center (Tower 3), and World Trade Center Vehicle Security Center and Tour Bus Parking Facility (VSC). It acts as a joint venture partner for construction management on the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, a mega terminal designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, as well. And Tishman himself is the chairman of the building committee for the 9/11 Memorial, which opens Sunday for the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The memorial is a tree-dappled, eight-acre tribute to those nearly 3,000 people lost at the site through the use of reflecting pools in the original Twin Towers’ footprints.

The first building rebuilt and completed on the site was 7 World Trade Center. Construction started in 2002 and it opened for business in 2006. It was the first building to open on the site since 9/11, and it was New York City’s very first gold LEED-certified building. Now 90% occupied, tenants include Moody’s Corporation, Ameriprise Financial and the New York Academy of Sciences. “As the developer of that building, Larry Silverstein, so often likes to comment, he gave John Tishman the opportunity to build 7 the first time and Dan Tishman the opportunity to build 7 the second time,” Tishman wryly remarks, noting that the new building, a 52-story high rise designed by David Childs, is very different from the original with its red granite facade.

Four World Trade Center is under way, the steel framing running nearly 50 floors high. Construction on 1 World Trade Center, which will stand 1,776 feet high (49 feet higher than the original) over 101 stories and claim the “tallest building in America” title, is emerging on the Big Apple skyline as well. The $3.1 billion office tower, for which construction didn’t commence until 2006, already stands more than 80 stories high. Tishman says that project is on track for completion by the end of 2013, despite a short-lived union strike earlier this summer and new design stipulations granted to Conde Nast, the building’s newly signed anchor tenant.

“What’s very hard to see on the site visually is that just under Tower 1, there’s a roughly 700,000 square foot building that fills up the hole just to bring it to grade -- and then the building starts to climb up from there,” explains Tishman. That foundation was constructed around six active Path trains that cart anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 passengers per day: Tishman calls the building’s foundation a “surgical procedure,” proudly asserting the fact that the train system has experienced no construction-related disruptions since his team started. His crew also had to carve out delivery paths for the hulking high-rise that cross under the 2, 3 and 4 World Trade Center plots.

Trains aside, the site has posed a plethora of challenges for the many players involved and the construction process has not been exempt. Catering to the stakeholders involved, from the victims to the Port Authority to city officials to Silverstein to potential tenants, has been a timely and delicate process that has delayed construction over the years Silverstein spent years embroiled in a legal battle over insurance money allotted to the site as well.

The commercial construction industry has evolved dramatically in 40 years, too. For example, 1960s buildings operated on fossil fuel-fired electricity – a cheap, plentiful energy option at the time. Today, new construction focuses on energy efficiency and LEED certifications, a green construction process that can take significant time and money. All of this in a high-profile site of multiple construction projects where security measures both around the acreage and built into the buildings’ structural layouts have been in effect (though Tishman and others remain mum about those security details).

Even so, Tishman remains optimistic about construction and excited about the Memorial’s debut: “My expectations are high – we’ve worked long and hard on what the public will see on the 11th and it will be a remarkable outcome after a number of years of extremely hard work by a large number of people.”

Watch the video: 911: Ground Zero Underworld