A decade and a half has passed since the day Jihadists killed 3,000 innocents on our soil in coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a failed attempt on either the Capitol or the White House which ended in a crash in Shanksville, PA. September 11 was hardly the first Islamic attack on us or our soil. Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda made an attempt on the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993 with a truck bomb that killed six and wounded over 1,000. Islamic attacks on us and our interests go all the way back even before our founding as a nation. They are immortalized in the US Marine Corps Hymn. The lyric “shores of Tripoli” refers to the Barbary Pirates. Washington Irving also wrote about Islam in America. The old cliché about failing to learn the lessons of history could not be more applicable than it is here. September 11 is too often addressed as if it happened in a vacuum and as if it were a first-time attack.
WTC Site Brief History 9/11 Onward
One month prior to the September 11 attacks, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey net leased the buildings of the World Trade Center to Silverstein Properties for 99 years. The WTC consisted of the Twin Towers, and low-rise buildings Three through Six. Silverstein owns neighboring 7 WTC entirely, both land and building, which is why it was first to be rebuilt. The Port Authority net leased the buildings, because they are in the airport, seaport, bridge and tunnel business, not the real estate business. They did not want to be involved with building and property management. This history is important for several reasons. The attacks were initially considered an act of war, but that characterization was rapidly dropped for two reasons. First, insurance does not cover for losses due to an act of war. Second, the act was not committed by a nation state. Silverstein Properties had under-insured the site and tried to collect a double settlement on the grounds that it was two separate attacks. The firm got roughly a 1.5x settlement amounting to $4.55 billion. Fast forward to today, the Port Authority, which owns One WTC wants to sell the building – for the same reason the site was net leased to Silverstein.
This history gives some context as to why 15 years later, key elements of the WTC site are under construction. A bi-state agency, multiple state and city agencies, plus dozens of stakeholder groups – all with a say, and with competing egos – were involved in a years-long hearing process that concluded in 2006. Aside from the “camel is a horse designed by committee element,” the 16-arce WTC site is a complex piece of engineering with monumental infrastructure going to 70 feet below grade.
The WTC Today
As noted above, Seven WTC was the first to be rebuilt, since the building and land are both private property. It opened 10 years ago.
One WTC formerly known as “Freedom Tower” opened its observatory to the public last year. One WTC has nearly supplanted its predecessor in kitsch and tchotchkes, as a trip to any Midtown souvenir shop will attest. One WTC-emblazoned pizza boxes are in high demand by pizzerias, according to a New York Times report.
The once nearly-dead Performing Arts Center now has a new design, and Barbra Streisand as its Chairman of the Board. The Performing Arts Center was brought back to life in part by a $75 million donation from Ronald O. Perelman. The temporary PATH station which sits where the Performing Arts Center will go, is being demolished.
Tower Two had been re-designed, but News Corp. backed out of a deal to be an anchor tenant of the building. Silverstein Properties is deciding whether to move forward with the original Foster + Partners design or the more radical Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) project. BIG designed the VIA 57 pyramid-like apartment building. The BIG project would create a true fraternal twin for One WTC, thus giving the illusion of Twin Towers from some angles. But, without an anchor tenant or some form of guaranteed financing, nothing gets built.
The $4 billion Calatrava Transit Hub – that looks like a bird or a dinosaur depending on your perspective – finally opened this June along with the Westfield Mall. It is now possible to walk and shop from the Fulton St. Transit Center to the WTC Transit Hub, across to One WTC, under West St. and into the World Financial Center completely underground. The WTC Transit Hub also connects Towers 3 and 4, and will connect 2, when it’s finally built some years from now. Photographers Hufton + Crow took some spectacular photos of the Transit Center and mall.
After 15 years, the 1 train Cortlandt St. stop is still out of service.
The concrete for Three WTC topped out on June 23, and Four WTC has been open for business since November 2013.
Moving across Liberty St., construction continues on the Vehicle Security Center, while Liberty Park above is now complete. The slightly relocated St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is being rebuilt. The final building – 5 WTC – never left the preliminary design phase and there are no current plans for its construction.
Much of the WTC site will be a construction zone for at least the next five and possibly 10 years, which would take its complete rebuilding to a quarter century from the 9/11 attacks.
The Future of Our Nation
September 11 is generally not considered a day to be politicking, yet as I said from the beginning, we cannot discuss this day in a vacuum. Today is intrinsically political on so many levels, whether it be the over 1,400 years of history it is now a key part of, or a routine zoning hearing downtown.
Two administrations have come and the second one nearly gone since that day. We seem to have forgotten the day’s lessons. Islamic terrorism is on the march throughout the world. If something is not done soon, Europe will lose centuries of its culture and become unrecognizable. In many ways, it already has, as we see in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Spain, among other nations. North Korea – with whom we’re still technically at war – there was never an armistice or peace treaty of any kind – has conducted its fifth nuclear weapons test. The world is much more dangerous place now than 15 years ago, thanks in part to failed policies by both Republicans and Democrats.
At stake this November is the our continued existence as a Constitutional Republic. This election is also a referendum on Americanism vs. Globalism; a culture of Life and Human Dignity vs. a culture of death, unspeakable barbarism, and inhumanity; a society built on Rule of Law and Domestic Tranquility, or a world where atrocities that brought us September 11 are routine and normal.
This year is our Time of Choosing.
Best we choose wisely.