November 3rd - November 9th, 2012
WTC Site Floods, But Officials Say Buildings Will Be Hurricane-Proof
November 3 - Millions of gallons of water streamed into the World Trade Center site during Sandy, cascading through the PATH terminal and down ramps used for construction vehicles reports WNYC News. But officials say the prognosis for flooding, and any other hurricane damage, should be much better once the 16-acre redevelopment is complete. A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the subject, said between 150-200 million gallons of water entered the lower level of the complex, which includes interconnected portions of 1 World Trade Center, the PATH terminal and the September 11th Memorial and Museum. He said crews are still assessing the damage to the site and don’t yet have a dollar estimate. But he and others connected to the project say that 1 World Trade Center has several design features meant to withstand the high speeds and flooding that come with hurricanes, including concrete walls at its foundation that are 6.5 feet thick, reinforced by steel as thick as a human arm, beveled edges up and down the tower that will create eight corners, which will confuse and disperse wind and, the lack of windows for the first 180 feet of the tower--an aspect designed in order terror-proof the structure, but will also reduce the amount of water entering through openings. Additionally, the entire platform for the World Trade Center complex is set to rise 15 feet above grade level, which means that the Hudson River would have to rise at least that high to flow in across West Street. That could be possible in a fierce storm; as it was, Sandy’s 9-foot surge, coupled with high tide, brought the water almost to that height. Still, Christian Meyer, a professor at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, said that flooding shouldn’t pose a long-term problem to the stability of the structures since the World Trade Center is built on bed rock.
Future Is in Limbo for the Damaged Buildings Close to the Waterâ€™s Edge
November 5 - It could be weeks or even months before tenants can come back says the New York Times. Many of the soaked towers that poke into the downtown Manhattan Sky have dried out. Their lights blink. Their elevators run. The heat is on. But a far starker and more problematic future persists for scores of commercial and residential buildings that hover near the edge of the water, especially those that dot the financial district. Their mechanical and electrical systems destroyed by millions of gallons of water from swollen rivers, they remain weeks or months away from being able to reopen and invite their tenants back. Some occupants have been told they cannot return until near Thanksgiving. Others have learned that it could be after Christmas, or early next year, or even later. The full extent of the damage to these buildings, which include major office towers along Water, State and Front Streets, remains unclear. Many owners are still furiously pumping out water, some of it contaminated by toxins. The afflictions of these wounded buildings have forced major tenants to pursue short-term leases in alternative spaces or crowd into unaffected offices that they already lease in other parts of the city or region. Some businesses were assuming temporary quarters at the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn. People unable to get back into residential buildings found themselves imposing still more on friends, relatives, or contemplating short-term sublets. The DOB has told all real estate owners in the city’s mandatory evacuation zone that reoccupation is not allowed until the department inspects a building and issues it a green approval sticker. Alternatively, approval will be granted if the building has power and a licensed professional engineer or registered architect submits a report attesting to its safety.
Keeping Pace with Downtown Growth
November 5 - While Columbia University, New York University and Cornell University throw their weight around with massive, billion-dollar projects, Pace University’s expansion in lower Manhattan has gone largely unnoticed outside its downtown neighborhood. Crain’s reports that Pace, once considered a commuter school, is building two big dorms—a 30-story tower at 33 Beekman Street and a 24-story structure at 180 Broadway, each designed to house at least 600 students. It is also renovating a vacant building at 140 William Street for its performing arts school. The projects stem from climbing Pace enrollment as its programs gain recognition. The school has more than 12,500 students spread over campuses in Manhattan, Pleasantville and White Plains. Most of the 2,000 Manhattan students live in the borough, while about 600 are in leased space in Brooklyn heights. The new performing arts center is scheduled for completion in December, the dorm at 180 Broadway by next and the one at 33 Beekman by 2015, although last week’s severe flooding may affect construction schedules.
BPCA Resolves Contract Dispute with Asphalt Green
November 6 - The Battery Park City Authority has resolved its contract dispute with Asphalt Green, the nonprofit group designated to run the new community center, and hopes to open the facility by December 1. The Broadsheet reports that although construction of the community center, originally scheduled to open last fall, was finished months ago, the facility has remained unopened as the BPCA renegotiated key points with Asphalt Green. Authority chairman Dennis Mehiel said at the October 23 meeting of the BPCAs board that there were two fundamental problems with the original agreement. First, the nature of the contract put the Authority in the position where a private enterprise, Asphalt Green, was spending public dollars, taxpayer money, without adequate supervision or transparency. Second, the requirement for this authority was to subsidize all operating expenses, regardless of the amount. Mr. Mehiel explained that the BPCA has reached an understanding with Asphalt Green under which the Authority will not take any financial risk. He also noted that the revised contract provides for preferential membership rates at the community center for Battery Park City residents, and that the new agreement makes space within the community center available to groups other than Asphalt Green, by filing an application directly with the BPCA. Some non-financial aspects of the deal may yet prove controversial, however. Under the revised contract, Asphalt Green is entitled to use the ball fields for its summer camp program. This may spark opposition from existing camp programs and sports leagues that already use the fields. And Community Board 1 has been pressing the BPCA for years to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that would govern use of both the fields and the interior spaces within the community center, while also setting forth requirements for issues like affordability and arts outreach, as well as programs for teens and seniors.
WTC Memorial Reopens to Public After Storm
November 6 – The September 11 Memorial reopened to the public Tuesday a week after Superstorm Sandy flooded the World Trade Center site as it roared into New York, but another temporary closure was planned for Wednesday in anticipation of an approaching Nor'easter. The Associated Press reports that city parks were also scheduled to shut, from noon Wednesday through noon Thursday, because of potentially high winds. The earlier news from the memorial about its post-Sandy reopening was that the superstorm, which claimed at least 40 lives in the city, spared the core of the memorial: the reflective fountains ringed by the names of those who died in the terrorist attack. Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum said his worst fear on the night of the storm was what was going to happen to the memorial, and the names that millions of people have come and touched? As he walked through the memorial site late Monday afternoon he called it a sacred place. Daniels pointed to a tree that miraculously had made it through the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and also survived the storm. Also spared were 9-11 artifacts that are to be displayed in the museum still under construction--from a piece of the antenna from the north tower to an elevator motor that once propelled workers into the skyscrapers. When Daniels first entered the memorial on Oct. 30, the morning after the worst of the storm devastated lower Manhattan he said the water was pouring in with force, carrying huge pieces of wood and other debris along the south side of the memorial where visitors enter. Some screening facilities temporarily housed in a tent there also were damaged. Inside the visitor center and a private entrance room for family members of 9-11 victims, about 4 feet of water ruined the lower sections of the sheet-rock walls, which had to be cut away. In the unfinished museum, the water rose as high as 8 feet. It had taken about a week to drain the floodwaters from the 16-acre site. Work was completed by Monday afternoon and the memorial reopened at 10 a.m. Tuesday, closing at 4 p.m. until full power is restored to the World Trade Center site, Daniels said. Some areas, including the visitor center, still rely on generators.
World Trade Center Building Schedule Still on Track
November 7 - Construction at the World Trade Center resumed this week after floodwaters poured into the site during Hurricane Sandy, reports Real Estate Weekly. The day after the storm the decimated much of the tri-state area, Silverstein Properties said inspectors examined the companys three building sites along the eastern portion of the WTC site. According to the company, all of the construction cranes at the site are in working order. No structural damage occurred at any of the WTC towers, including 4WTC, which remains on schedule to be completed in 2013. Inspectors reported no damage to mechanical systems, including a major electrical room beneath WTC2, which supplies power to each of Silversteins towers. The basement levels of towers 2, 3 and 4 had water pumped out, but the company said it isn’t expected to impact the overall construction schedule. Governor Cuomo said Monday that crews had completely drained water that flooded the 9-11 Memorial and Museum. Sixteen million gallons--or seven feet of water--was pumped out after pouring into the Museum Oct. 29. Cuomo said 750 construction workers have resumed work at Ground Zero. Ninety-five percent of the water from the storm surge at the 16-acre site in Lower Manhattan had been pumped out by Monday when the giant cranes were back in action at 1WTC and the PATH transit hub. Once it was safe to do so, crews from the Port Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began pumping water from the site. The PATH transit hub is the last major water pumping operation still ongoing, and is expected to be dry within the next day or two, according to Port Authority officials.
Seaport Museum-Plan Blocks Views So Block The Plan
November 8 - After receiving much praise from locals, the plan by developer Howard Hughes Corporation for the overhaul of Pier 17 is now getting a wave of negative feedback about the view obstructions the plan would cause at the Seaport. According to The Downtown Express, in its application to the city, Howard Hughes has requested a waiver of requirements concerning waterfront view corridors in order to be able to build a permanent performance stage on Fulton Plaza and attach several new signs to the pier’s future mall. But officials representing the South Street Seaport Museum oppose the plan, asserting that the stage will block crucial views of the harbor and will interfere with the museums planned educational programming. Susan Henshaw Jones, director of the Museum of the City of New York, which runs the maritime museum, is calling on the city to issue a restrictive declaration that would mandate the continuation of existing view regulations and therefore prohibit the stage. In its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application, Howard Hughes argues that a mandate is unnecessary because all development rules would be spelled out in the written lease agreement between the developer and the city. The developer wrote that views of the water will be provided from several alternate locations on the zoning lot, and views of the water will be significantly enhanced overall by the proposed project. But Henshaw Jones believes the view corridor should be completely unimpeded going all the way to the waterfront. Additionally, the proposed performance stage for Fulton Plaza would infringe on the South Street Seaport Museum’s right to the Pier 16 apron, which the museum plans to use for educational workshops and other museum-related events in the coming months, according to Henshaw Jones. Trapeze training, maritime classes and other such programming could bring more money to the struggling museum, she noted.