We’ll be ‘better neighbors’ as we rebuild the W.T.C.


By Chris Ward

Last month, as the result of Governor Paterson’s call for a more transparent and accountable process, I presented a roadmap to get the World Trade Center rebuilding on track — one that outlined aggressive yet realistic timelines for all of the major projects, as well as interim milestones so the public can track the Port Authority’s progress and hold us accountable.

The Port Authority is now hard at work on our next challenge: the need not only to rebuild the World Trade Center as quickly as possible, but to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses located around this very active construction site.

It’s easy to understand the anxiety and frustration that Lower Manhattan residents and businesses have experienced since Sept. 11. In the five months since becoming executive director of the Port Authority, you have shared with me stories of sleepless nights due to late-night construction, dirty and congested streets, and difficulties navigating around an ever-expanding construction zone.

As the level of construction activity ramps up, we will ramp up our efforts to be better neighbors. This starts with a basic premise: the construction on the site has to move forward, but at the same time we must listen to those most affected by the site’s construction, and find ways to improve their quality of life.

To facilitate this effort, we recently created an Office of Program Logistics, which is now the focal point for mitigating the byproducts of a massive construction site. This office will provide regular updates to residents and businesses and will be the point of contact for anyone who believes we can do things better.

To staff that office, we hired renowned traffic expert Sam Schwartz, who will help us develop creative solutions that will improve the movement of people, vehicles and equipment around the site.

Workers lift steel for the Freedom Tower, right next to the east-west underground passageway from the train station, just two pieces to the new World Trade Center site plan.

Recently, Sam walked the site with community leaders to listen to their concerns and incorporate the community’s input into solving the problems in and around the site.

As a result of that walk, we received numerous recommendations to improve conditions around the site and have already started implementing many of them.

Specifically, we were asked to find ways to deter illegal vending around the site. As a result, I’ve asked our staff to install clear, visible signs as soon as possible to deter this activity, and have ordered our Port Authority Police Department to be more aggressive in their crackdown.

At the community’s request, I’ve also charged the Office of Program Logistics to develop recommendations on how we can improve the flow of pedestrians at the intersection of Church and Vesey Sts., perhaps the most congested area around the W.T.C. site. I’ve also asked them to work with the Downtown Alliance to provide better ways to improve pedestrian way-finding.

We’re also acting on another of the recommendations made during the tour: the paving of a portion of Liberty St. between Church and Washington Sts., to make it easier for pedestrians to walk through that area of the site.

And, in our ongoing effort to keep the site clean and informative, we are replacing the current fence surrounding the World Trade Center site with a new, clean and informative wrapping of designs depicting the current progress on the site, what the site will look like when it is rebuilt and improved way-finding signs so pedestrians can get to their destinations faster and more easily.

Importantly, these efforts build on past ones, including the installation of soundproof devices on certain types of construction equipment, the purchase of street sweepers to clean local roads, and the installation of soundproof barriers on the fencing that surrounds the site.

Still, despite these efforts, we know we can always do better. To make sure we are constantly accessible to new ideas and community concerns, we recently launched a feature on our website — www.wtcprogress.com — called “Ask the Port Authority.” I have already begun responding to your questions and look forward to more.

In the meantime, we will continue working hard every single day to rebuild the World Trade Center and will do so in a way that not only rebuilds quickly and safely, but with respect to the surrounding community.

Chris Ward is executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

World Trade Center construction near the former Deutsche Bank building, center, and residential buildings on Liberty St.

New timeline

After seven years of missed World Trade Center redevelopment target dates, Chris Ward, the Port Authority’s executive director, released a report on Oct. 2 which he said is a realistic accounting of the difficulty of building a memorial, office towers, transportation hub and supporting infrastructure all at the same time in a relatively confined space. Below are dates when the Port expects to complete key portions of the project

Memorial Plaza Sept. 2012 *

Memorial & Museum 2013 (Jan. – June)

Transportation Hub Oct. 2013 – June 2014

Freedom Tower 2013 (April – Dec.)

*The Port expects to have the plaza ready for a large public ceremony on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, Sept. 11, 2011. The memorial waterfalls at the Twin Towers’ footprints are scheduled to be finished then. The names of the people killed on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville Pa, and of the six killed at the World Trade Center in the 1993 bombing will be written on the walls surrounding the waterfalls. The plaza will then be closed to the public for a year before it is completed and opens to the public.