W.T.C. tower work continues despite impasse


By Julie Shapiro

There hasn’t been much good news about the World Trade Center site lately, as delays, cost overruns and disputes continue to dominate the public face of the project.

But at site meetings led by the Port Authority, an executive with Silverstein Properties said one project consistently lifts everyone’s spirits: Tower 4, which the developer is building in the southeast corner of the site.

“Everybody is more or less in awe of how fast it’s rising,” said Glenn Fidje, a construction executive with Silverstein.

The progress is still mostly invisible from street level, but that’s going to change soon. Structural steel will begin poking out of the ground in September, and the building’s concrete core will rise as well, Fidje said. Another tower crane will arrive around the end of the summer.

On a recent afternoon, scores of workers moved over Tower 4’s subgrade levels, erecting the steel rebar that strengthens concrete columns and preparing concrete molds for upcoming pours. Most of Tower 4 has risen to the B1 level, just below what will become the ground floor.

“You come out in the morning and you see something, and you come out in the afternoon and it’s different,” Fidje said as he looked out across the site. “It’s amazing.”

Fidje joined Silverstein Properties a year ago because he said he could not pass up an opportunity to work on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

“It’s the greatest development project in the world,” he said.

Designed by Fumihiko Maki, Tower 4 is scheduled to top out in the middle of 2011. The 64-story tower will contain retail on the first five floors and office space above, totaling 2.3 million square feet of space. The Port Authority and the city are slated to occupy two-thirds of the offices, but Silverstein has not locked in an agreement with them.

Several other pieces of the Trade Center site are moving along rapidly as well, particularly in the memorial quadrant, where steel framing the tower footprints has taken shape over the past six months. Across much of the memorial, that steel has risen nearly to street level.

The site of One W.T.C., the Freedom Tower, was busy as well, with workers below grade preparing forms for concrete pouring. Steel for the tower has risen to 105 feet above street level around one of the two tower cranes in the tower’s core.

But Tower 4 has made the most visible progress over the past several months, and Fidje credited that to the strong communication between Silverstein, contractor Tishman Construction Corp. and subcontractor Rogers & Sons Concrete. Rogers & Sons, a small family-owned firm based in Lagrangeville, N.Y. won the job over more established contractors, Fidje said.

“Every day you learn something different,” said William Sousa, a foreman with Rogers & Sons. He said Tower 4 is the biggest project the company has done, and he is seeing construction methods he never saw in his 20 years with Rogers & Sons.

At a typical high-rise, workers have a two-day concrete cycle, framing the forms one day and pouring the next. At Tower 4, the monumental floor slabs below grade require much more preparation. They are also stronger than the concrete in other buildings Rogers & Sons has done, as a security measure.

Sousa said it was important to him to be part of the rebuilding, and his 11-year-old daughter likes telling her classmates where her father works. While many people are skeptical about the World Trade Center construction, Sousa said the final product would ultimately matter more than the process.

“In end, I think it’s going to be a nice job,” he said.

Additional video footage of the WTC re-construction.