Tower of fear, not freedom for some


By Josh Rogers with Ellen Keohane

The new design changes to the Freedom Tower are intended to make the building the safest in the world but it may take time to convince Downtowners.

An unscientific sample of views of people who work or live near the World Trade Center site Wednesday revealed that many may not feel more nervous having a 1,776-foot building in the neighborhood, but they aren’t anxious to go inside the Freedom Tower once it is built at Fulton and West Sts.

“I just say good luck getting someone to work in there — they can’t even get people to lease that other building,” said Jacqueline, a 30-year-old administrative assistant who declined to give her last name. She works in the World Financial Center, and was referring to the nearly completed 7 World Trade Center which does not have a tenant yet.

Earlier in the day, Gov. George Pataki said he would be confident his children would be safe if they worked in the Freedom Tower.

“New Yorkers have always reached for the sky, and we are doing it today,” Pataki said June 29, the day the changes were announced. “We owe it to the heroes of Sept. 11 and we owe it to the generations to come.”

The security design features include a 200-foot base reinforced with metal that will also be reflective; a dense concrete core to protect the offices’ elevators, stairways and sprinkler systems; additional wider stairways; and biological and chemical filters.

The changes came after Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the building design unveiled in December 2003 was too close to the streets. He issued a statement saying the changes answered the police department’s concerns limiting vehicular access on Vesey and Fulton Sts. and keeping traffic at least 65 feet from the building.

“The new Freedom Tower design incorporates standards the Police Department had sought to protect the building against bomb blasts, which our counter terrorism experts agree present one of the greatest threats to such iconic structures,” Kelly said.

David Childs, the building’s architect, said the security changes led to design improvements including creating room for two public plazas on the east and west sides of the building. The reinforcements at the base of the building pushed the occupied floors higher, thus making it possible to put the observation deck at 1362 feet, the height of one of the Twin Towers.

The spire antennae rises to 1,776 feet, matching the year America began. Some observers said the design reminded them of the Empire State Building and Childs said his idea was to design a Downtown tower that connects visually to the two most prominent in Midtown — the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.

There will be 69 floors of offices with 2.6 million square feet of space. The highest office floor will be 1,120 feet off the ground. Previously the building cost estimates were $1.5 billion. Larry Silverstein, the building’s developer, did not say how much the new design would cost. He said construction will begin early next year with steel rising from the ground sometime in 2007. He said the building will not open until 2010 and he has not begun to look for tenants yet. Silverstein said there has been a lot of interest in renting out 7 W.T.C. since Friday, when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Lower Manhattan incentive package passed with the backing of Pataki, State Sen. Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

“The phones haven’t stopped ringing since that package was passed,” Silverstein said.

The plan includes discounted rents of $3.80 per square foot for the first 750,000 square feet of space at 7 W.T.C., across the street from the Freedom Tower, and $5 per square foot for the first 750,000 at the Freedom Tower or other proposed offices at ground zero.

At least for now, the incentives would not be enough to convince some employees to go along if their bosses decided to move into the Freedom Tower.

“No, I wouldn’t feel comfortable working there,” said Lucinda Lieberman, 47, who works across from the W.T.C. site as an assistant account supervisor for a reinsurance firm. “They had more than one attack on the World Trade Center…There’s such a thing as three strikes and your out.”

“I don’t think I’d like to go to the top of one of those buildings,” said Kathleen Moore, who lives across the street and put her age at “well over 50.”

“After 9/11 I don’t like heights,” she added. “They’re planning a restaurant on top — I’ll never go there.”

The feeling was not unanimous though. “We can’t let terrorism stop us,” said Yvette Barreto, 42, a technical assistant who works at One Liberty Plaza. “Yes, I would feel comfortable [working there]. There are people risking their lives working in tall buildings all over New York.”


View of the tower from the proposed World Trade Center memorial.

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