New York State Assembly Hearing
January 29, 2009
Good morning. Thank you, Speaker Silver, for convening this hearing and for inviting me to participate. I also want to thank you for your longtime advocacy and partnership on this critical issue. Long before I became executive director of the Port Authority, you were fighting to make sure that no one forgot the obligation to Lower Manhattan and its singular importance to the revitalization of the region. Thank you also, Chairman Brodsky, Chairman Brennan and Chairwoman Millman, and all the members of the standing committees for focusing on our collective effort. It is a pleasure to be with you today to discuss the progress at the World Trade Center site.
In the last six months, the Port Authority has come a long way in the rebuilding effort. When I first came on as executive director last summer, Governor Paterson called on me and the agency to do a complete assessment of the rebuilding effort. In October, we released the results of that assessment effort, which were essential for two reasons:
First, the report leveled with the public. It gave them a clear-eyed accounting of where the project stood in terms of budgets and schedules. Second, and just as important, it included resolutions to a range of fundamental issues that had prevented the rebuilding effort from getting on track. Those resolutions were a credit not only to Port Authority staff, its Board of Commissioners and Governor Paterson’s clarion call, which I know Speaker Silver and many of you hear today have voiced for some time, but to all of our project partners, including the Federal Transit Administration; Mayor Bloomberg’s Office; the National September 11th Memorial & Museum; Silverstein Properties; the MTA; the New York State Department of Transportation; and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Thanks to all of this work and the tangible shift in the rebuilding effort that has taken place over last several months, we are seeing real, visible progress on that site.
While the October report and the progress since then have marked important steps forward, we have not solved every problem. We still have the challenge of building so much in so confined a space while tens of thousands of commuters move literally through the site each day via PATH and the subway’s #1 line. We still have the challenge of doing everything possible to mitigate the necessary reality of all this construction in the Downtown community. And we still have the challenge, which grows every day, of the effects the deteriorating economy and financial markets will have on the site.
That is why we can’t let up. We must keep our heads down and focus every single day on hitting our milestones and communicating candidly with the public about our progress as well as our challenges.
To that end, earlier this month we released our first quarterly progress report on the Port Authority’s new World Trade Center website: www.wtcprogress.com. These were firsts for the Port Authority – both the website that allows the public far greater access into the site plan and its progress, as well as the quarterly reports, which allow the public to track construction through interim milestones and hold this agency accountable.
Today, I am pleased to report that the Port Authority met eight of the nine fourth quarter milestones:
First, we completed the erection of the Memorial’s “Sector 2” steel, which forms the outline of the Memorial’s North Pool and a portion of the museum. This included over 1,100 pieces of steel totaling over 1,600 tons. Additionally, we completed the removal of the temporary ramp and moved the “Survivor Staircase” to its final position. As you can tell from the visible progress on the site, the Memorial is really starting to take shape.
Second, the Memorial Foundation completed the Memorial’s Pavilion structural design and the drawings are now under review.
To be clear, we are on track to meet the commitment we made in October to open the Memorial Plaza by the 10th Anniversary of September 11th.
Third, we completed the foundations for One World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, which included 15,000 cubic yards of concrete – the strongest concrete ever used in a New York City commercial office building. One World Trade Center is now rising above street level.
Fourth, we completed to grade – in fact 30 feet above grade – the South Core Shear Wall of One World Trade Center, which forms the elevator and stairway core for the south side of the office building.
Fifth, we finalized the construction documents for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which consists of over 3,700 drawings that will allow our contractor, Phoenix Constructors, to continue the procurement and construction of the Transportation Hub.
Sixth, we issued an RFP for the procurement of the Transportation Hub’s structural steel, a critical step toward connecting Lower Manhattan and New Jersey with what will be the third-largest transportation hub in New York City and realizing Santiago Calatrava’s landmark building.
Seventh, we erected the steel for the Transportation Hub’s South Mezzanine, allowing for the completion of the Memorial Plaza over the PATH tracks.
Eighth, we mobilized the contractor for the South Bathtub Slurry Wall for the Vehicular Security Center, which was necessary to begin construction of the VSC’s foundation walls.
But as I emphasized earlier, we can’t only talk about our progress; we also must be up front about our setbacks. While we hit eight of our milestones last quarter, we did not hit all nine. The one milestone we did not meet was turning over the sites for Towers 2, 3 and 4 to Silverstein Properties. We are working cooperatively with Silverstein Properties to resolve the outstanding issues and are conducting a review as to why this milestone was missed so it doesn’t happen again. While we’re on the subject, I also want to emphasize that, despite the challenging real estate and financial markets, we are working closely with Silverstein Properties to ensure that as much of their commercial office space gets developed as fast as possible. This will be an ongoing conversation that we hope to complete this year.
In addition to the milestones met, we have also worked hard to be responsible neighbors in the Downtown community.
To that end, the Port Authority has established the World Trade Center Office of Program Logistics, which is now the focal point for planning the coordinated movement of vehicles and pedestrians around the site. The construction activity at the site will increase dramatically over the next five years. Thus, it is essential that there is a mechanism in place to communicate regularly and openly with the residents, businesses and public officials of Lower Manhattan, and work together to mitigate what will inevitably be necessary inconveniences due to the reality of how much is being built in such a small, congested area of the City.
Already, the office has been providing regular updates to residents and businesses and, as you know, we hold regular task force meetings which Speaker Silver graciously hosts in his office to enable us to better provide information and listen to the thoughts, concerns and needs of local residents and businesses. In addition, with the assistance of community leaders from Community Board 1, the Downtown Alliance and others, we conduct regular “Walkshops” around the site to identify ways in which we can improve it. These walks have already led to tangible community improvements, including:
- A new, clean, and informative fence wrapping around the site with designs
depicting the current progress at the site and what the site will look like when it is rebuilt and way-finding signs to help facilitate pedestrian flow;
- Better nighttime lighting throughout the site’s perimeter;