Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week, five years after the September 11
attacks, we examine what is being done to rebuild Ground Zero in New York.
In April, workers in Lower Manhattan finally broke ground
for a high-rise office building called the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is
at the center of plans to redevelop the seven-hectare area now known as Ground
Ground Zero is the name for where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center
stood until September eleventh, 2001. Members of al-Qaida flew hijacked
passenger airplanes into the towers. More than 2700 people were killed as the
buildings collapsed and disappeared from the New York skyline.
The Twin Towers, completed in the early 1970s, were among the tallest
buildings in the world. The Freedom Tower will also be one of the tallest
buildings, at a cost estimated at more than 2000 million dollars.
Current plans call for occupancy in 2011.
The building known as Seven World Trade Center was also destroyed on
September eleventh. Four other buildings were torn down later because of damage.
So far, only Seven World Trade Center has been rebuilt. The new high-rise
building opened in May.
Last week, designs for three other office buildings were made public. Money
problems and disputes among public officials, developers and designers, among
others, have slowed progress at Ground Zero.
(SOUNDS from September 11, 2001)
In all, the attacks five years ago killed almost 3,000 people.
Islamic terrorists also crashed a plane into the Pentagon. The Defense
Department headquarters is across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. A
fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers
revolted against the hijackers.
Crews working seven days a week repaired the damage to the Pentagon. Some
office workers were back in less than a year in the area that had been struck.
Work on a memorial to the victims at the Pentagon began this June.
Many New Yorkers are angry that the huge hole at
Ground Zero has yet to be filled with new buildings. They say it has taken too
long to rebuild this economically important part of America's financial capital.
But the job of planning has also been huge. Many agencies are involved. And
so are many individuals. They include survivors of 9/11, family members of the
victims and people who live near Ground Zero.
Arguments about safety and appearance have at times been highly emotional.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the World Trade Center
property. But developer Larry Silverstein signed a 99 year lease to operate
the World Trade Center. He did so in July of 2001, just weeks before the
attacks. Since then he has paid millions of dollars in rent each month for the
Twin Towers and other buildings that no longer exist.
Mr. Silverstein was able to rebuild Seven World Trade Center, which he owned.
But payments from insurance policies did not provide enough money to rebuild all
of Ground Zero.
In April, Mister Silverstein agreed to a proposal that aims to make sure
there is enough money to complete the project. If this complex agreement becomes
final, it could represent a big step toward restoring all of Ground Zero.
The agreement calls for Mr. Silverstein to give control of the Freedom Tower
to the Port Authority. The Port Authority then would pay him to direct the
building of the tower. The agency also would guarantee occupants for the Freedom
Tower. Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority would divide responsibility for
other buildings on the site.
The city and state of New York and insurance payments for the Twin Towers are
to help finance the Freedom Tower.
Mr. Silverstein recently announced that more than eight hundred tons of steel
is being produced in Luxembourg to provide supports for the Freedom Tower.
Kenneth Ringler leads the Port Authority. Mr. Ringler said the steel supports
will go up early next year. He said this would show the public that work is
Architects competed to design a plan to restore Ground Zero. In 2003, Daniel
Libeskind of Studio Libeskind was chosen. Some of his best known buildings are
museums, including the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Mr. Libeskind proposed plans for the Freedom Tower as part of his master plan
for Ground Zero. But his plans called for separate architects for the buildings.
That idea was criticized. Some people also said his vision of the Freedom Tower
was too large and costly.
Back in July of 2001, Larry Silverstein had hired architect David Childs of
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Mr. Childs had been hired to make some changes to
the existing World Trade Center. Later, Mister Silverstein asked Mister Childs
to help work on the plans for the Freedom Tower, after the criticism of the
Architects Libeskind and Childs worked together in the second half of 2003.
But it was not a happy partnership. The design process was reorganized. David
Childs became the architect of the Freedom Tower. In the spring of 2005, police
officials raised concerns about the security of the proposed building.
Mr. Childs hurried to make changes. Within just a few weeks, the new plans
for the Freedom Tower were presented. That was in June of last year. David
Childs set the building farther back from the street, to leave more room for a
public plaza area. Being farther back from traffic would also provide more
security against a terrorist attack from the street.
The Freedom Tower is expected to rise from a sixty-one meter high base. There
are also plans for extensive fire protection systems as well as wide stairways
to make an escape to safety easier in an emergency.
Most of Mr. Libeskind's ideas were gone from the new design for the Freedom
Tower, such as windmills to help provide energy. But the new plans kept his
proposal for a total height of about 541 meters, including a needle-like
spire on top.
With the spire, the building will be 1,776 feet tall. 1776 is an important
number to Americans. It was the year the United States declared its independence
The Freedom Tower will have office space, restaurants and other businesses,
as well as an observation deck for visitors. Plans also call for a Beacon of
Freedom -- a powerful light to shine from the spire.
In late July, New York Governor George Pataki announced good news for the
project. He said the General Services Administration, a federal agency, is
expected to occupy a large share of the office space.
The plans for Ground Zero include a memorial, a museum and a visitors'
center. The memorial will honor the victims of September 11 and of
the 1993 bombing of the Twin Towers.
The memorial is called "Reflecting Absence." The design by Michael Arad and
Peter Walker won an international competition. Their design places reflecting
pools and waterfalls around where the towers stood.
But the project to build a memorial has faced design and financing delays. It
has also incited some of the most emotional disputes in the debate over what to
do with Ground Zero.
Crews are now working on support columns for the memorial. The work stopped
for a while in the summer when giving for the project slowed and costs were
increasing. A re-design was ordered, and the Port Authority has now take
responsibility for the work.
The goal is to open the World Trade Center memorial on September 11, 2009.
Another memorial will open much sooner opposite the World Trade Center site.
A museum of memories called the Tribute Center is to welcome the public
beginning September 18. Four rooms in the center tell the story of the Twin
Towers from their first days through their last.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Mario Ritter.
I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Faith Lapidus. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in
VOA Special English.