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New York Governor Supports Freedom Tower Redesign

New York Governor George Pataki yesterday threw his support behind a security-related redesign of the World Trade Center Freedom Tower. The announcement comes at a crossroads for the site, which is facing questions on several fronts.

After concluding a meeting with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Freedom Tower developer Larry Silverstein, and various rebuilding officials, Pataki, one of the driving forces behind the 1,776 foot-tall building’s conception, announced that “A new design for the Freedom Tower is required in order to meet NYPD's security standards.”

The New York Police Department first expressed concerns about the tower’s safety early last month, centering around the building’s vulnerability to an automobile-related attack, specifically from West Street. Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the tower’s architects, will now work on adjusting the building for such concerns. The new design is unknown, but The New York Times today said that building officials have speculated that the architects may have to remove the torquing design of the tower in order to decrease the size of its floor plate, hence keeping it further from the street. Other ideas include moving the tower further away from West street. It is unknown how long the redesign will delay the building’s construction, but given the pace of major construction projects, it will likely be significant.


Meanwhile, questions about the site loom as construction has reached a standstill, a major rebuilding official has stepped down, and the wisdom of massive amounts of office space in the area have come under scrutiny.

The last construction activity on the site itself came about a year and a half ago, with the completion of a temporary PATH station at the site’s northeast corner. New York Senator Charles Schumer on May 3 told a Crain’s Business Breakfast that “we are losing steam,” and that a “culture of inertia has infected downtown redevelopment and our city in general.” He warned that additional delays could jeopardize future federal funding for the area, specifically referring to a possible link between JFK airport and lower Manhattan.

Silverstein’s 7 World Trade Center, nearing completion just to the north of the site, stands without a major tenant, while the Goldman Sachs Building, to its northwest, has been put on an indefinite hold. Many real estate, design, and business leaders suggest that the site contain more retail and residential space, which appear to be in higher demand in the area than office space.

“Why make the program the same as it was, rather than create an innovative part of the city?” New York-based architect Winka Dubbeldam told Record in a recent survey of the area.

Kevin Rampe, who has been president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation since 2003, announced on May 3 that he would be leaving his post at the end of the month. Rampe, who is leaving to work for Bermuda-based insurance company ACE, says his departure has been long-planned, and that it has nothing to do with the current developments at the Trade Center. Rampe feels recent concerns over the site are inflated, and says the Freedom Tower’s new delays represent the Trade Center’s only major obstacle. “Everything else is right on time,” he says. “Overall I’m surprised by how much progress we’ve made. There are always going to be hiccups with projects of this scale. Many people don’t have the level of understanding to realize that this is what happens.”

In his speech, Pataki made sure to note that “a new design for the Freedom Tower is not impeding any of our other rebuilding progress.”

Sam Lubell