World Trade Center site

Aerial photo of the World Trade Center site, as it appeared on September 23, 2001

The World Trade Center site, formerly known as "Ground Zero" after the September 11 attacks, is a 14.6-acre (5.9 ha) area in Lower Manhattan in New York City.[1][2] The previous World Trade Center complex stood on the site until it was destroyed in the September 11 attacks. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), Silverstein Properties, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) oversee the reconstruction of the site according to a master plan by Studio Daniel Libeskind.[3] The site is bounded by Vesey Street to the north, the West Side Highway to the west, Liberty Street to the south, and Church Street to the east. The Port Authority owns the site's land (except for 7 World Trade Center). Developer Larry Silverstein holds the lease to retail and office space in four of the site's buildings.[4]

While the PANYNJ is often identified as the owner of the WTC site, the ownership situation is complex.[5] The Port Authority indeed owns a "significant" internal portion of the site of 16 acres (6.5 ha) but has acknowledged "ambiguities over ownership of miscellaneous strips of property at the World Trade Center site" going back to the 1960s. It is unclear who owns 2.5 acres (1.0 ha) of the site, being land where streets had been before the World Trade Center was built.

Before the World Trade Center

The western portion of the World Trade Center site was originally under the Hudson River, with the shoreline in the vicinity of Greenwich Street. On this shoreline close to the intersection of Greenwich Street and the former Dey Street, Dutch explorer Adriaen Block's ship, the Tyger, burned to the waterline in November 1613, stranding Block and his crew and forcing them to overwinter on the island. They built the first European settlement in Manhattan. The remains of the ship were buried under landfill when the shoreline was extended starting in 1797, and were discovered during excavation work in 1916. The remains of a ship from the eighteenth century were found in 2010 during excavation work at the site. The ship, believed to be a Hudson River sloop, was found just south of where the Twin Towers used to stand, about 20 feet below the surface.[6]

The area that was cleared for construction of the original World Trade Center complex was previously occupied by various electronics stores in what was called Radio Row. These streets and stores were demolished in the 1960s to make way for the World Trade Center.

Original buildings

The original World Trade Center was thought of as a North American cultural icon. At the time of their completion the "Twin Towers", the original 1 World Trade Center (the North Tower), at 417 metres (1,368 ft), and 2 World Trade Center (the South Tower), were the tallest buildings in the world. The other buildings in the complex included the Marriott World Trade Center (3 WTC), 4 WTC, 5 WTC, 6 WTC, and 7 WTC. All of these buildings were built between 1975 and 1985, with a construction cost of $400 million (equivalent to $2,300,000,000 in 2015 dollars).[7] The complex was located in New York City's Financial District and contained 13,400,000 square feet (1,240,000 m2) of office space.[8][9]

The World Trade Center experienced a fire on February 13, 1975, a bombing on February 26, 1993 and a robbery on January 14, 1998. In 1998, the Port Authority decided to privatize the World Trade Center, leasing the buildings to a private company to manage, and awarded the lease to Silverstein Properties in July 2001.

September 11 attacks

Main article: September 11 attacks

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, both which were en route to Los Angeles, and intentionally crashed them into the two towers of the World Trade Center. The towers collapsed within two hours of the collisions.[10] 2,606 people, including 2,192 civilians, 71 law enforcement officers, and 343 firefighters, who were in the towers and in the surrounding area died in the attacks, as well as 147 civilians and the 10 hijackers aboard the two airliners. After the collapse of the World Trade Center, hospital workers and law enforcement officers began referring to the World Trade Center site as "Ground Zero".[11]

Debris and clean-up

Satellite image of the World Trade center site after the attacks with the location of the Twin Towers and other buildings in the complex superimposed over the debris field
The World Trade Center site 17 days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Buildings surrounding the site of the collapsed towers are fitted with mesh to prevent further damage and large construction vehicles are being used to clear debris.

The collapse of the towers spread dust across New York City and left hundreds of thousands of tons of debris at the site.[12] To organize the cleanup and search for survivors and for human remains, the New York City Fire Department divided the disaster site into four sectors, each headed by its own chief.[13] Early estimates suggested that debris removal would take a year, but cleanup ended in May 2002, under budget and without a single serious injury.[14][15] Three years later, in February 2005, the New York City Medical Examiner's office ended its process of identifying human remains at the site.[16]

According to NIST, when WTC 1 (the North Tower) collapsed, falling debris struck 7 World Trade Center and ignited fires on multiple floors. The uncontrolled fires ultimately led to the progressive collapse of the structure.[17] Portions of the South Tower also damaged the nearby Deutsche Bank Building, which soon became filled with toxic dust. By 2002, Deutsche Bank determined that its building was unsalvageable. By January 2011, the Deutsche Bank Building was finally completely demolished.[18]

Cleanup workers trucked most of the building materials and debris from Ground Zero to Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island. Some people, such as those affiliated with World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial, were worried that human remains might also have been (inadvertently) transported to the landfill.[16]

In August 2008, New York City firefighters donated a cross made of steel from the World Trade Center to the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company.[19] The beam, mounted atop a platform shaped like the Pentagon, was erected outside the Shanksville firehouse near the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93.[20]

In December 2001, a temporary viewing platform at Fulton Street, between Church Street and Broadway, opened to the public.[21]

On March 11, 2002, 88 searchlights were installed and arranged to form two beams of light shooting straight up into the sky. This is called the Tribute in Light, and was originally lit every day at dusk until April 14, 2002. After that, the lights were lit on the two-year anniversary of the attack and have been lit on each subsequent September 11 since then.[22]


In July 2010 a team of archaeologists at the site discovered the remains of a 32-foot (9.8 m)-long boat over 200 years old; it was probably made in the 18th century and dumped there along with wooden beams and trash in about 1810 to make up the land.[23] The boat had been weighted to make it sink as part of foundations for a new pier. Samples of its wood have been taken for dendrochronology.

New buildings

World Trade Center site layout
WTC site plan prior to 9/11/2001
Above: The World Trade Center site prior to the September 11 attacks.
WTC site plan for reconstruction
Above: Preliminary site plans for the World Trade Center rebuild.

Soon after the September 11 attacks, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki, and President George W. Bush vowed to rebuild the World Trade Center site. On the day of the attacks, Giuliani proclaimed, "We will rebuild. We're going to come out of this stronger than before, politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again."[24] During a visit to the site on September 14, 2001, Bush spoke to a crowd of cleanup workers through a megaphone. An individual in the crowd shouted, "I can't hear you," to which Bush replied, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."[25]

In a later address before Congress, the president declared, "As a symbol of America's resolve, my administration will work with Congress, and these two leaders, to show the world that we will rebuild New York City."[26] The immediate response from World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein was that "it would be the tragedy of tragedies not to rebuild this part of New York. It would give the terrorists the victory they seek."[27] However, in 2011, only one building, 7 World Trade Center, had been rebuilt. The buildings that have been rebuilt so far include 7 World Trade Center, One World Trade Center, and 4 World Trade Center. The original twin towers took less than three years from start of construction to be finished and five years from the beginning planning stages. However, given the complexity and highly political nature of the rebuilding efforts, they are often cited as an example of a successful public-private collaboration and are taught as a case study in successful negotiations.[28]

Early proposals for redesign

Lower Manhattan Development Corporation

Governor Pataki established the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) in November 2001, as an official commission to oversee the rebuilding process.[29] The LMDC coordinates federal assistance in the rebuilding process, and works with the PANYNJ, Larry Silverstein, and Studio Daniel Libeskind, the master plan architect for the site's redesign. The corporation also handles communication with the local community, businesses, the city of New York, and relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks.[30] A 16-member board of directors, half appointed by the governor and half by the mayor of New York, governs the LMDC.[31]

The LMDC had questionable legal status regarding the restoration of the World Trade Center site, because the Port Authority owns most of the property and Larry Silverstein leased the World Trade Center's office space in July 2001. But the LMDC, in an April 2002 articulation of its principles for action, asserted its role in revitalizing lower Manhattan.[32]

Directly after the attacks

In the months following the attacks, architects and urban planning experts held meetings and forums to discuss ideas for rebuilding the site.[33] In January 2002, New York City art dealer Max Protetch solicited 50 concepts and renderings from artists and architects, which were put on exhibit in his Chelsea art gallery.[34]

In April 2002, the LMDC sent out requests for proposals to redesign the World Trade Center site to 24 Manhattan architecture firms, but then soon withdrew them. The following month, the LMDC selected Beyer Blinder Belle as planner for the redesign of the World Trade Center site.[35]

On July 16, 2002, Beyer Blinder Belle unveiled six concepts for redesigning the World Trade Center site.[36] All six designs were voted "poor" by the roughly 5,000 New Yorkers that submitted feedback, so the LDMC announced a new, international, open-design study.[37]

2002 World Trade Center site design competition

In an August 2002 press release, the LMDC announced a design study for the World Trade Center site.[38] The following month, the LMDC, along with New York New Visions – a coalition of 21 architecture, engineering, planning, landscape architecture and design organizations – announced seven semifinalists. The following seven architecture firms were then invited to compete to be the master plan architect for the World Trade Center:

Peterson Littenberg, a small New York architecture firm, had been enlisted by the LMDC earlier that summer as a consultant, and was invited to participate as the seventh semifinalist.[39]

The seven semifinalists presented their entries to the public on December 18, 2002, at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center. In the following weeks, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill withdrew its entry from the competition.[40]

Days before the announcement of the two finalists in February 2003, Larry Silverstein wrote to LMDC Chair John Whitehead to express his disapproval of all of the semifinalists' designs. As the Twin Towers' insurance money recipient, Silverstein claimed that he had the sole right to decide what would be built. He announced that he had already picked Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as his master planner for the site.[41]

On February 1, 2003, the LMDC selected two finalists, the THINK Team and Studio Daniel Libeskind, and planned on picking a single winner by the end of the month. Rafael Viñoly of the THINK Team and Studio Daniel Libeskind presented their designs to the LMDC, which selected the THINK design. Earlier the same day, however, Roland Betts, a member of the LMDC, had called a meeting and the corporation had agreed to vote for the THINK design before hearing the final presentations. Governor Pataki, who had originally commissioned the LMDC, intervened and overruled the LMDC's decision.[41] On February 27, 2003, Studio Daniel Libeskind officially won the competition to be the master planner for the World Trade Center redesign.

Libeskind's original proposal, which is titled Memory Foundations, underwent extensive revisions during collaboration with Larry Silverstein, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, whom Silverstein hired.[42] Though Libeskind designed the site, the individual buildings have been designed by different architects. While not all of Liebeskind's ideas were incorporated into the final design, his design and the public support it garnered did solidify the principle that the original footprints of the Twin Towers should be turned into a memorial and not be used for commercial purposes. As a result, Liebeskind's lawyers at the New York firm of Wachtell Lipton embarked on the multi-year negotiation process to frame a master plan for the rebuilding.[43] The first step in this process, completed in 2003, was the "swap" in which Silverstein gave up his rights to the footprints of the Twin Towers so that they could become a memorial, and in exchange received the right to build five new office towers around the memorial.[44] The "swap" and the ensuing negotiations, which lasted for many years, have been referred to as the most complex real estate transaction in human history because of the complexity of the issues involved, the many stakeholders, and the difficulty of reaching consensus.[45]

Constituent structures


A view of Ground Zero, taken in September 2006, from the 45th floor of the completed 7 World Trade Center with the future Greenwich Street running vertically through the center.

One World Trade Center (previously coined the "Freedom Tower" by Governor Pataki) is the centerpiece of Libeskind's design. The building rises to 1,368 feet (417 m), the height of the original World Trade Center north tower, and its antenna rises to the symbolic height of 1,776 feet (541 m). This height refers to 1776, the year in which the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.

The tower was a collaboration between Studio Daniel Libeskind and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect David Childs.[46] Childs acted as the design architect and project manager for the tower, and Daniel Libeskind collaborated on the concept and schematic design.[47] According to a NY1 article on March 8, 2011, a plan to build a restaurant on top of One World Trade Center (to duplicate the Windows on the World restaurant atop the previous North Tower) was scrapped entirely because of potential risk of rising costs to build and maintain the establishment over the benefits of having one at all.[48] Also in 2011 it was confirmed that Condé Nast Publications would be a primary tenant of the building.[49][50]

British architect Norman Foster designed 2 World Trade Center, also known as 200 Greenwich Street. The building's distinctive slanted, diamond-shaped roof echoes Libeskind's original sketches for the building.

Richard Rogers Partnership designed 3 World Trade Center, or 175 Greenwich Street, which stands across Greenwich Street from the Memorial's two reflecting pools.

Maki and Associates designed 4 World Trade Center, also known as 150 Greenwich Street.[51][52]

5 World Trade Center was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox and will stand where the Deutsche Bank Building once stood. On June 22, 2007, the Port Authority announced that JP Morgan Chase will lease the 42-story building for its investment banking headquarters.;[53][54] however, JPMorgan's March 2008 acquisition of Bear Stearns had put the future of the 130 Liberty Street site in question, as the company is now planning to relocate its headquarters to 383 Madison Avenue. Construction began on September 9, 2011.

7 World Trade Center stands off of Port Authority property. David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the tower, which opened in May 2006. The project company also announced that all of the towers will be completed even with the effects of the late 2000s recession at the worst case before 2020.

Memorial and museum

A memorial called "Reflecting Absence" honors the victims of the September 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[55] The memorial, designed by Peter Walker and Israeli-American architect Michael Arad, consists of a field of trees interrupted by the footprints of the twin towers. Pools of water fill the footprints, underneath which sits a memorial space whose walls bear the names of the victims. The slurry wall, which holds back the Hudson River in the west and was an integral part of Libeskind's proposal, remains exposed.[56] Walker and Arad were selected from more than 5,000 entrants in the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition in January 2004. Construction of the memorial was completed before September 11, 2011.[57]

On October 12, 2004, the LMDC announced that Gehry Partners LLP and Snøhetta, an architectural firm from Norway, would design the site's performing arts and museum complexes, respectively, in the same area as the memorial.[58] [59] The Snøhetta-designed museum[60] will act as a memorial museum and visitors' center, after family members of 9/11 victims objected to the building's original occupant, the International Freedom Center.[61] Gehry's performing arts complex will house only the Joyce Theater since the Signature Theater Company dropped out due to space constraints and cost limitations.[61] The Ground Zero Museum Workshop is a privately run 501c nonprofit museum that is not connected to the official Ground Zero Memorial or Gehry's museum.[62]

Retail space

In early December 2013, Australian retail corporation Westfield announced that it will invest US$800 million for complete control of the retail space at the rebuilt center. Westfield, Australia's largest shopping mall operator, will purchase the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s 50 percent stake in the retail part of the World Trade Center site, increasing its total investment to more than US$1.4 billion.[63]

Transportation hub

Entrance to the PATH at the World Trade Center

Santiago Calatrava designed the World Trade Center Transportation Hub (its main asset being the PATH station) to replace the old World Trade Center station.[64] The Transport Hub will connect the PATH station and 1 New York City Transit Authority subway train to the ferry terminal, the World Financial Center and One World Trade Center on the west and the 2 3 4 5 A C J Z N R W New York City Transit Authority subway trains through the Fulton Center on the East. One will be able to walk most of the way across lower Manhattan. The Port Authority will cool the new station, as well as the September 11 Memorial and Museum, via a heat exchanger fed by four pipes carrying water from the Hudson River.[65] The cost for the transportation hub is estimated at $3.44 billion.[66][67][68]

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

Government officials have backed down from a July 2008 deal to relocate the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only church destroyed in the September 11 attacks.[69][70]

A deal has been reached between church officials, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the Port Authority to have the church rebuilt on the same site, but three times the original size on October 14, 2011, according to NY1.[71]

Criticism of progress

An episode of CBS's 60 Minutes in 2010 focused on the lack of progress at Ground Zero, particularly on the lack of completion dates for a majority of the buildings, the main tower, One World Trade Center (previously known as the Freedom Tower)'s having undergone three different designs, and the delays and monetary expense involved. Investor Larry Silverstein said the Port Authority's estimated completion date for the entire site was 2037, and billions of dollars had already been spent on the project, even though Ground Zero "is still a hole in the ground". During an interview for the episode, Larry Silverstein said: "I am the most frustrated person in the world...I'm seventy-eight years of age; I want to see this thing done in my lifetime".[72] However, it was noted that in early 2011, all five office towers of the World Trade Center are under construction with significant progress being made. All of the towers will be opened between 2014–2016, with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum already completed on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, on September 11, 2011. Criticism of progress and calls for redesigns were mostly made in 2008 and 2009 when progress at the site was clearly not being made.

The social center of the old World Trade Center included a spectacular restaurant on the 107th Floor, called Windows on the World, and its Greatest Bar in the World; these were tourist attractions in their own right, and a social gathering spot for people who worked in the towers.[73][74] This restaurant also housed one of the most prestigious wine schools in the United States, called "Windows on the World Wine School", run by wine personality Kevin Zraly.[75] Despite numerous assurances that these local landmarks and global attractions would be rebuilt,[76] the Port Authority scrapped plans to rebuild these WTC attractions, which has outraged some observers.[77]


As of June 2016, progress on the construction of the redesigned site was as follows:

Name Image Date construction started Date of completion Construction summary Height (height including spire in parentheses) Current status
One World Trade Center April 27, 2006 November 3, 2014 Construction was supposed to begin in Fall 2004 after the design plans were finalized earlier that year, but the NYPD raised security concerns, which caused extensive revisions to the existing plans, thus delaying the start of the construction of the building by two years.[78] Among the notable changes, the tower was moved further away from the West Highway, and a heavily fortified base to the building was added.[79] In 2006, the Port Authority took over from Silverstein Properties, as the project's developer Tishman Construction Corporation is the construction manager.[80] Construction began in April 2006. Digging the foundation and installing tower-foundation steel columns, concrete, and rebar took twice as long as it normally would. The construction crews were prevented from using heavy machinery to dig the foundation due to the building's location, which is closer to the existing subway line.[79] The building reached grade level by 2010, progressed at a pace of one floor a week, topped out in August 2012, and was structurally completed in May 2013.[81] The building opened on November 3, 2014, and the first 170 employees of anchor tenant Conde Nast began their work there.[82] 417 metres (1,368 ft) (541 metres (1,775 ft)} Completed
2 World Trade Center Link November 10, 2008 c.2021 Construction of everything up to street level was completed in mid-2013.[83][84] The rest of the building, however, has yet to be built until tenants for Tower 2 can be found.[85][86] 382 metres (1,253 ft) (410 metres (1,350 ft)) On hold
3 World Trade Center Link November 10, 2008 c.2018 Groundbreaking occurred in Fall 2008, but construction halted in Summer of 2012 due to lack of anchor tenants. However, work progressed on below-grade foundations and the ground-level podium, which was completed by October 2013.[87][88] Anchor tenant Group M was finally signed in late 2013,[89] but finance negotiations between Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority dragged, until an agreement was reached in June 2014. Construction resumed in August 2014, and building is now scheduled to be completed by 2018.[90] 352 metres (1,155 ft) (383 metres (1,257 ft)) Structurally Topped-out
4 World Trade Center November 10, 2008 November 13, 2013 Construction began in the fall of 2008 and the building was declared complete on November 13, 2013.[91][92][93][94] The first tenants to move in were two government agencies,[95] and as of July 2015, the building is 62% leased.[96] 288 metres (945 ft) Completed
5 World Trade Center Link September 9, 2011 c.2020 Site preparation work began on September 9, 2011, with the Port Authority acting as the building's developer.[97] but construction on the main structure never commenced.[98] 226 metres (741 ft) On hold
7 World Trade Center May 7, 2002 May 23, 2006 Construction of the new 7 World Trade Center began in 2002 and was completed in 2006. The building is 52 stories tall (plus one underground floor), making it the 28th-tallest in New York.[99][100] Opened on May 23, 2006 and achieved LEED gold status.[101] 207 metres (679 ft) Completed
National September 11 Memorial March 13, 2006 September 11, 2011 The Memorial opened on September 11, 2011, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the attacks.[102][103] Completed
National September 11 Museum March 13, 2006 May 21, 2014 The museum was initially scheduled to open on September 11, 2012, one year after the opening of the Memorial. However, construction was halted in December 2011 due to financial disputes between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation, deciding on who should be responsible for infrastructure costs. Those disputes were resolved and construction resumed on March 13, 2012. Further delays were caused when Hurricane Sandy significantly damaged the site in November 2012. The museum was completed and opened to families of the victims on May 15, 2014 and opened to the general public on May 21, 2014. Completed
World Trade Center Transportation Hub April 26, 2010 March 3, 2016 A temporary PATH station opened in 2003 and construction on the permanent station was supposed to begin in fall 2004; however, the NYPD raised security concerns on the entire site. Among the revisions effecting the Transportation Hub was doubling the number of support columns.[78] In the original plan, the construction of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum was only supposed to have begun after the Transportation Hub had been completed because the roof of the Transportation Hub provided the foundation on which the Memorial rested upon and the walls of the Museum.[104] Due to the two-year delay and pressure by the victims' families to have the Memorial completed by the 10-year anniversary, it was decided to concentrate on building the Memorial, and holding off construction of the Transportation Hub. Construction finally began on the Transportation Hub in 2010, and it opened on March 3, 2016, seven years after it was originally expected to be finished.[105] Completed
Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center N/A 2017 c.2020 Construction was to begin in December 2014 when the removal of the temporary PATH station commenced.[106] However, after a downgrade of plans, the construction date was moved back indefinitely. After the PATH station is removed, construction may start. In November 2015, it was announced that Joshua Prince-Ramus was awarded the contract to design the building. On September 8, 2016, the design was revealed to mostly positive reviews from architecture critics. Construction will begin in early 2017, after the temporary PATH station is removed. The center is planned to open in 2020.[107] Construction not started
Vehicular Security Center N/A November 10, 2011 c.2017 The underground complex and the checkpoint of the VSC is completed, but it has not yet opened.[106] Completed, but not in use.
Liberty Park November 20, 2013 June 29, 2016 Construction began in November 2013 when the Vehicular Security Center's roof was structurally complete. Opened in June 2016.[108][109] Completed
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church N/A October 18, 2014 c.2017 Construction began with the groundbreaking occurring on October 18, 2014. The structure should be complete by late 2016 or early 2017.[110] Under construction

See also


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