At last, ‘Freedom Tower’ opens to the public

Downtown Express photos by Milo Hess Views from One World Trade Observatory.
Downtown Express photos by Milo Hess
Views from One World Trade Observatory.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Cool blues, high-tech gadgetry, dizzying heights and amazing vistas mark the experience at the now opened One World Observatory.

It begins by entering 1 World Trade Center, or the Freedom Tower, on its West St. side and going down into the building. Its opening day, Fri., May 29, lines flanked both sides of the entrance in the afternoon — the crowds were out in full force.

The sun beat down on those waiting in line for their timed entrance into the Observatory — and many made hats out of paper and used umbrellas as shields. Entrance times were periodically yelled out. An employee who had been there since 8:30 a.m. said the crowd had built as the day progressed.

Upon entering and after getting through security, which includes random full-body scans prevalent at airports, visitors are greeted by a giant screen with a myriad of facts about those who go to the Observatory. Once a ticket is scanned, the hometown or country of the visitor will appear on the screen and the welcome salutation will be in their mother tongue. Eighty-eight countries and all 50 states can be displayed.


Next is moving footage of those that spent over a decade building 1 W.T.C. — including construction workers, architects and Port Authority officials. Called “Voices,” the tunnel-like area had rectangles jutting out on one side, as people said things like “spent 12 years of my life on this project” and “I have never experienced a project like this.”

Javier Medrano liked this interactive aspect of the visit.

“I’m from New York City so I had to go do this,” he said.

oneworld41“Foundations” allows visitors to walk through bedrock material that flashes facts — like the bedrock foundations of 1 W.T.C was formed 450 million years ago — about what anchors the tower.

On to the main event — the view. To get there, one boards at a bank of five elevators or “Sky Pods.” Inside of the elevators are floor-to-ceiling high definition televisions that display time-lapsed video that shows the development of the New York City skyline. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the incredible display. The ride is around 47 seconds long and you feel it when you disembark. Each elevator holds four to five people.

For Gerald Koval, a member of the Marines, the ride up with the historical timeline was one of his favorite parts.

Koval, 22 and a Queens native, had visited the Twin Towers as a child, but didn’t go the top. His commission as a second lieutenant just happened to be the same day as the Observatory’s opening. Visiting it reminded him why he joined the Marines, he said.

Once off the elevator, the “See Forever” theater is next. Like a cubist painting brought to life, the rectangular sections show the pulse of the city, hitting upon its different neighborhoods. The film “was edited and scored to a tempo based on pedometer data of the average New Yorker,” according to the press release.

After the video is over, the sections lift to reveal the skyline.

“I thought it was great — it was magical,” said Edward Matthews, who is from Manchester, England.

Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic People waited in line on opening day.
Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
People waited in line on opening day.

Matthews said that while it chaotic inside, the view on the Observatory deck was breathtaking.

The Observatory offers a spectacular panorama of the city and one could get lost walking around it, trying to identify landmarks and building. There is the obligatory photo you can get a la Empire State building and of course, a pricey gift shop (adult tee-shirts are $30 and $35).

All that spoke with Downtown Express on opening day said it was worth the wait for the incredible views. Admission is $32.

“I thought it was amazing,” said Jennifer Williams, from Atlanta, Georgia. Williams had been to the Twin Towers years ago and said the new Observatory’s view definitely compares.

“It was nice — you could see all the way to New Jersey,” said Nadiyah Abdur-Rashid, 19, who lives on the Upper West Side. Abdur-Rashid liked that one is able to see the entire city and said visiting is something everyone should do.

Alex Bain, 20, is a junior at Fordham who was visiting with his friend from Texas, Adrian Annicchiarico, 20, a University of Houston student. Both said that it took too long to get to the top, but once there, it was worth it for the awesome views.

“It was a great experience … almost dizzying — the lift is very fast,” said Oliver Jackson-Rose, who was visiting with his wife Anita and their two kids Lucas and Lee from London. “The view here is way more open, whereas the Empire State building feels more trapped.”

The Observatory also has a dining area, which will have three sections — a grab and go, in the style of Dean & DeLuca, a bar and grill, and then a fine dining option. Much has made of the fact that unlike Windows on the World, a ticket must be purchased to eat at the restaurant at the Observatory.

David Checketts, chairperson of C.E.O. of Legends Hospitality, said the Port Authority wanted “the best use of space,” which is why the lease does not allow the restaurants to be open to people without a ticket.

“We’re okay with it because it’s enough to accommodate the three to five million guests that will come a year,” he said during a May 21 press preview.

There is a separate events floor that will be available for private functions.

Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess Visitors can see real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below.
Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess
Visitors can see real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below.

— With reporting by MIA RUPANI

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