Redevelopment at the site of the fallen World Trade Center Towers in New York has been mired in years of controversy involving politicians, transportation officials and developers. It has involved financing, architecture and transportation issues, and what would be a fitting memorial to the victims of 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City.
Key officials involved in the dispute held a news conference in New York on Tuesday to announce an agreement on all of the major areas of contention.
New York Governor David Patterson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a private developer and transportation officials from New York and New Jersey made light of prolonged disagreements that stalled redevelopment of the World Trade Center.
Very public disagreement over the years involved billions of dollars needed to finance the project and whether the Port Authority, which owns the site and underground transportation infrastructure, would funds.
Mayor Bloomberg said it took years for all of the negotiations, design work, approvals and financing to come together. "Nine years is not unreasonable for something as complex politically, as complex financially, given the world that has changed since 9/11 [i.e., September 11, 2001], and as complex from an engineering point of view," he said.
Rising on the site will be Freedom Tower -- the tallest building in North America, at 541 meters, or 1,776 feet -- that number being the year America declared its independence from Britain. Nearby will be three more towers, each at least 300 meters tall. An underground transportation center is expected to serve a quarter-of-a-million pedestrians daily.
Soon after the 2001 attacks, critics feared that many people would leave New York City. The Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, says those fears were unfounded. "Today, there are more than 60,000 people living south of Chamber Street -- double the number that lived here before September 11, 2001. Our major corporations did not flee downtown en masse. In fact, we remain the business and financial capital of the world," he said..
Amid the towers will be a memorial plaza that will serve as a green roof of oak trees for the site's museum. Hundreds of trees are being trucked in from regions directly affected by the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum President Joe Daniels says the site will include two pools of water marking the location of the fallen twin towers. Daniels says the exhibitions will commemorate the victims and educate others about the terrorist attacks.
"This museum will be the global focal point for telling the story and preserving the history of 9/11, done in a way that acknowledges the countless individual experiences, through for example, a first person account, and the larger but still very group narratives of what happened," he said.
Daniels says about 1.1 million people visited a temporary memorial during the past year, most of them from other countries. The memorial is expected to open next year.
Developer Larry Silverstein says the first tenants will move into the tallest of the new World Trade Center skyscrapers in 2013. The project is expected be completed in about five years.