Progress at World Trade Center -- Finally

For years, New Yorkers have been complaining about “the hole in the ground” where the Twin Towers once stood. But by the time this September 11th anniversary rolls around, the structural steel for One World Trade Center is expected to reach the equivalent of 38 stories high. Maybe this is the year those noises die down.

Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, hopes so.

“I think we will have reached a major, major psychological turning point for the site,” he says. “New Yorkers are proud of this city and proud of what we have been able to do to date, but we need to be able to see that tangible superstructure, that tangible skyscraper.”

Over the last few weeks, the steel frame for the building (formerly known as “The Freedom Tower”), has become a part of the city’s skyline -- that is, if you look really hard and from the right locations. One of the best vantage points is on the pedestrian and bike path on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. The upper floors, wrapped in a blue tarp, stick out from among the neighboring buildings like a stubby pencil in a pencil holder. (You can actually see it better the lower on the path you are because One World Trade’s height is accentuated.)

The structure is also visible from Jersey City, as this photo shows, and from the Battery—especially when looking north up West Street.

The Port Authority says the steel frame has reached 34 stories, because its height is comparable to the 34th story of the Goldman Sachs building kitty corner from it in lower Manhattan. But in reality, it’s more like 22. That’s because the first six stories, including the lobby, are extra tall. When the building is completed and become the city’s tallest skyscraper -- expected to be in 2013 -- there will in fact be no floors 7 through 19.

The cornerstone for the tower was first laid more than six years ago, but construction didn’t start in earnest until 2006, after the Port Authority, which owns the land underneath, took responsibility for the tower from developer Larry Silverstein. Silverstein is continuing to build three other office towers at the site. The steel frame for Four World Trade Center (also scheduled for 2013 opening), is now a few floors above ground, while the complex foundations for Towers Two and Three, complete with infrastructure for trains and underground retail, are now under construction. Tower Two may end up as short “retail podium” instead of rising to its planned 1,270 feet height, depending on demand for office space.

“People around the country say we’re not built Ground Zero fast enough and New Yorkers take that to heart,” Ward said. “But I think they know it’s going to now get built and they see it getting built and that’s what they want.”

Most of the memorial is supposed to open on next year's anniversary, and the new PATH terminal by 2014.

View of World Trade Center from the Brooklyn Bridge, Aug. 13, 2010 (Photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

View of World Trade Center from New Jersey, Aug. 14, 2010 (Photo by Jenna Flanagan/WNYC)