Progress at the World Trade Center

The memorial observance is taking place in Zuccotti Park, kitty corner from the World Trade Center site. This past year, the site has gone through a dramatic transformation as structures have finally started emerging from the ground. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman has the latest on the progress of the rebuilding.

Matthew, in past years family members have descended into the pit in order to lay wreaths and flowers in honor of their loved ones. But this year, there is no pit. Tell me, where are the family members going?

There is no pit because the memorial has reached the street grade, so family members are walking out from Liberty Street directly onto the plaza -- the same plaza where tourists and others will go when the memorial officially opens next year. It's just beginning to be landscaped. The first 16 oak trees were planted just a few weeks ago. There will eventually be nearly 400 trees total. Where the twin towers once stood, you can also see two empty square holes that will be filled with water to form the memorial pools. They've been almost entirely lined by black granite tiles.  

Now if you pass by Ground Zero, you can't see much of what's going on there, because there's a very tall construction fence. But you got an aerial view earlier this week. What did you see?

I went to a press conference with the mayor and governor updating the progress at the site and we were on the 10th floor of an office building across the street from the site. And right there in front of us was the structural steel that will form the frame of One World Trade Center. That's the 1,776-foot high skyscraper. It was once known as the Freedom Tower, you may remember, until they changed its name. The steel is dark red and in between the beams you can actually see the concrete slabs which mark each floor. I tried to count them, but I lost count. But the tower went up much higher than where we were standing, and the mayor said they've reached the 36th floor. Across the site, in the southwestern corner, the structural steel for a smaller skyscraper, called Four World Trade Center, is also beginning to rise, though it's less than 10 stories tall at the moment. It's expected to open in 2013.

Now what's going on with the other buildings and elements at the site?

Those are a lot less certain. Another skyscraper may never get built. It's foundation will be finished and topped off with some sort of plaza or lawn for people to hang out on in the meantime, but there's no public money left to subsidize the tower itself. Another tower will be built up to four stories high, enough for a shopping mall, and it will only go higher than that if there's enough demand for more office space. Underground work for Frank Gehry's performing arts center is just going to get started this fall, and no one knows where the money will come from to complete the above-ground portion. Finally, Santiago Calatrava's PATH terminal, the one that's supposed to look like a soaring bird, has experienced some set backs, though the Port Authority still expects it will open in 2014.


World Trade Center site