Janet Babin, Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a reporter at WNYC covering economic development.
One World Trade Center is New York City’s tallest building, but a design change could jeopardize its anticipated distinction as America’s tallest building.
The steel and fiberglass that was supposed to enclose the skyscraper’s antenna at the very top of the building is being scraped because officials fear workers will be unable to safely perform any repairs, if and when necessary.
“What was originally designed is impractical, unworkable and frankly dangerous to workers, who'd have to be called in to maintain it,” said Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Friday.
The agency made the decision jointly with the building’s developer, the Durst Organization, to remove the enclosure covering the 400-foot-tall antenna.
While the change will alleviate potential repair issues, it puts into question whether the building will be called the tallest in the country. When it had the casing, the structure was considered a spire. Without it, many consider it just an antenna.
Many experts do not count antennas when determining a building’s height. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, based in Chicago, is a respected authority on building heights. It does not consider antennas in a building’s height, but it does consider spires in the final tally.
The Port Authority said the top of One World Trade is more than an antenna. “This is a spire, not an antenna,” Foye said of the 400-foot needle-like structure atop the building.
Foye said he’s talking with the Council, to ask it to change the rules. “I think they're making a mole hill out of a mountain,” said Foye. “We're not building a three story walk up in Peoria, we're building the highest building in the Western Hemisphere.”
When it's completed, One World Trade will be a symbolic 1,776 feet, reflecting the year the nation was founded.