The 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York destroyed much more than the landmark Twin Towers of the city’s World Trade Center. A total of 10 buildings, including all seven of the WTC complex, and the WTC’s plaza were lost in the area that came to be known as Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. In the 20 years since the September 11 attacks, reconstruction efforts have almost concluded, transforming the area with memorials that honor what was lost and new buildings that provide innovative spaces for business, shopping, transportation, education and prayer. Scroll down through VOA’s photo gallery to see and read the stories of Ground Zero’s changing landscape.
One World Trade Center (left) is topped off at 110 floors in 1970 and its first tenants move in. It is one of two twin towers designed by American architect Minoru Yamasaki and built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a joint governmental agency of the two states. The towers are located on what used to be “Radio Row,” a Lower Manhattan area known for its consumer electronics stores.
Construction begins with an August 5, 1966, groundbreaking and uses an innovative technique in which each tower’s main structure is built as a square-shaped hollow tube of closely spaced steel perimeter columns, connected to the tower’s central steel core by floor trusses.
When 1 WTC is completed in 1972, it becomes the world's tallest building at 417 meters, overtaking New York's Empire State Building. It officially opens for business on April 4, 1973. But 1 WTC loses its tallest skyscraper ranking to Chicago's 443-meter Sears Tower in 1974.
1 WTC's unique features include its 106th and 107th floor restaurant spaces known as Windows on the World, which open on April 19, 1976, and become popular tourist attractions.
A 110-meter telecom antenna is installed on 1 WTC’s roof in 1979, soaring to a height of 527 meters. But antennas are not counted in a skyscraper’s height measurement as they are not internationally accepted as an architectural component of buildings.
On July 24, 2001, the Port Authority agrees to a 99-year lease of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and adjacent low-rise buildings to American developer Larry Silverstein for $3.2 billion.
1 WTC, also known as the North Tower in relation to its 2 WTC twin, is the first to be struck by a hijacked plane on 9/11, at 8:46 am. It is the second tower to collapse, at 10:28 am.
A reflecting pool encompassing the North Tower's footprint is nearing completion in July 2011. It is designed by Israeli-American architect Michael Arad and American landscape architect Peter Walker as part of a National September 11 Memorial. The new memorial is dedicated in a ceremony for victims’ families on September 11, 2011, and opens to the public the next day.
The North and South reflecting pools contain the largest manmade waterfalls in North America, each descending nine meters into a square basin. Arad says the pools represent “absence made visible,” with water flowing into voids that can never be filled.
The bronze parapet surrounding the North pool displays the names of 9/11 victims including those who were in 1 WTC and on American Airlines Flight 11 that hijackers flew into the building, and those killed in a February 26, 1993, terrorist bombing beneath the North Tower.
Two World Trade Center is topped off at 110 floors in 1971 and its first tenants move in. It becomes the world's 2nd tallest building at 415 meters. Construction is completed in 1973.
On July 24, 2001, the Port Authority agrees to a 99-year lease of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and adjacent low-rise buildings to American developer Larry Silverstein for $3.2 billion.
2 WTC (left), also known as the South Tower in relation to its 1 WTC twin, is the second to be struck by a hijacked plane on 9/11, at 9:03 am. It is the first tower to collapse, at 9:59 am.
A reflecting pool encompassing the South Tower's footprint is nearing completion in July 2011. It is designed by Israeli-American architect Michael Arad and American landscape architect Peter Walker as part of a National September 11 Memorial. The new memorial is dedicated in a ceremony for victims’ families on September 11, 2011, and opens to the public the next day.
The North and South reflecting pools contain the largest manmade waterfalls in North America, each descending nine meters into a square basin. Arad says the pools represent “absence made visible,” with water flowing into voids that can never be filled.
The bronze parapet surrounding the South pool displays the names of 9/11 victims including those who were in 2 WTC and on United Airlines Flight 175 that hijackers flew into the building; first responders; those who were in the Pentagon and on hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into it; and those who were on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Three World Trade Center opens in 1981. The 22-floor, 800-room Vista International Hotel becomes the first major name-branded hotel in Lower Manhattan. A bomb explodes in a WTC underground parking lot on February 26, 1993, killing six people and damaging areas under the hotel. It re-opens in November 1994 after repairs. Marriott International takes over management of the hotel in 1995 and renames it Marriott World Trade Center.
After hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, Marriott staff evacuate hundreds of guests. They also help hundreds of workers fleeing the North Tower through the hotel's lobby, directing them to an exit at the southern end of the hotel onto Liberty Street.
The fall of the South Tower at 9:59 am creates a huge gash in the center of the hotel, cutting it in two as seen in a photo taken by American freelance photojournalist Bill Biggart from West Street. The North Tower’s fall at 10:28 am kills Biggart seconds after he takes the photo and demolishes most of the rest of the hotel, except for a small section of several floors at its southern edge. Biggart is the only professional photographer killed in the attacks.
Two Marriott employees and at least 41 firefighters are killed at the hotel, according to a New York Times analysis published in 2002. The New York Times also quotes a Marriott spokeswoman as saying 11 registered hotel guests are unaccounted for.
The site of the former Marriott hotel becomes part of the 9/11 Memorial plaza, designed by Israeli-American architect Michael Arad and American landscape architect Peter Walker and dedicated in a ceremony for the victims’ families on September 11, 2011. It opens to the public the next day.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land on which the destroyed hotel stood, clears the way for the site to become part of the Memorial plaza by reaching an October 2003 agreement to terminate Host Marriott Corporation’s lease that would have lasted until 2094. The deal relieves Host Marriott of its obligation to rebuild the hotel.
More than 400 swamp white oak trees surround the Memorial plaza’s two reflecting pools.
Two small buildings also are located on the footprint of the former hotel. American landscape architect Peter Walker’s company PWP Landscape Architecture, which designed the plaza, says the two buildings primarily provide ventilation for facilities underneath the plaza. It says they also contain service spaces and a security command post.
Four World Trade Center, a nine-floor office building, opens to its first tenants in 1977. Major occupants include Deutsche Bank and the New York Board of Trade.
Most of 4 WTC is crushed by the collapse of the South Tower on 9/11. Its remains are demolished as part of the Ground Zero cleanup.
A new 4 WTC is under construction on part of the footprint of the original building in 2011. Designed by architecture firm Maki and Associates of Japan, the tower is part of American architect Daniel Libeskind’s 2003 master plan for the redevelopment of the WTC complex. Developer Silverstein Properties receives approval on August 26, 2010, to construct and operate 4 WTC under a lease from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
A new Three World Trade Center is under construction on another part of the original building footprint in 2011. Designed by architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners of Britain, the tower is part of American architect Daniel Libeskind’s 2003 master plan for the redevelopment of the WTC complex. Developer Silverstein Properties receives approval on August 26, 2010, to construct and operate 3 WTC under a lease from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The 72-floor 4 WTC opens on November 13, 2013. With a height of 297 meters, it is intended to be the 4th tallest skyscraper in the WTC complex when construction of all towers is complete. Architect Fumihiko Maki describes 4 WTC as a “minimalist tower that achieves an appropriate presence, quiet but with dignity.”
A third of 4 WTC’s office space serves as a new headquarters of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Other office tenants include the City of New York (government), Mediamath, Morningstar, SportsNet New York (SNY), Spotify, Sterling Entertainment and Zurich American Insurance Company.
4 WTC’s podium also includes three above-ground and two below-ground retail levels.
The 80-floor 3 WTC opens on June 11, 2018. With a height of 328 meters, it is intended to be the 3rd tallest tower in the WTC complex when construction of all towers is completed.
Distinctive features of 3 WTC include its “K” brace external steel framing and terraces on its 17th, 60th and 76th floors. Office tenants include Asana, Casper Sleep, Cozen O’Connor, Diageo, GroupM, Hudson River Trading, IEX Group, Kelley Drye & Warren, McKinsey & Company, and Uber. The building also has five floors of retail space.
Five World Trade Center, a nine-floor office building, opens to its first tenants in 1972. Major occupants include Credit Suisse First Boston and Morgan Stanley.
5 WTC is gutted by fire and debris after the successive collapses of the nearby Twin Towers on 9/11. It is demolished as part of the Ground Zero cleanup.
Foundation work for a new Two World Trade Center is under way on the northern part of the original building’s footprint in 2011. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, approves developer Silverstein Properties’s construction plan on August 26, 2010.
2 WTC’s original 2006 design by British architectural firm Foster + Partners envisages an 79-floor tower that would be the 2nd tallest building in the WTC complex, with a height of 411 meters.
A new WTC Oculus Transportation Hub is under construction on the southern part of the original building’s footprint in 2011.
It will serve as a station for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail network that connects New York City’s Manhattan borough with northeastern New Jersey. The new station will replace a nearby temporary station that opened on November 23, 2003, and restored Lower Manhattan’s PATH service that had been suspended since 9/11.
The PATH station’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, approves the new station’s design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in January 2004 with an intended opening in 2009. But design modifications delay the start of construction of its above-ground structure until July 2008.
2 WTC’s basement levels and superstructure are completed to street level in December 2012.
But construction is halted in 2013 by developer Silverstein Properties until it finds anchor tenants for the new tower.
A metal shed surrounding 2 WTC’s inactive building site becomes a popular tourist attraction, thanks to colorful murals painted on its exteriors.
Commissioned by Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in June 2018, street artists paint the murals to beautify the area with uplifting images and complete the project in September of that year. An Oculus Beer Garden opens on the Church Street side of the site in October 2020.
The WTC Oculus Transportation Hub PATH station opens to the public on March 3, 2016. The station's distinctive white roof features two wing-like upward-sloping ribs sitting atop two arches. It is intended to resemble a dove released from the hands of a child, according to architect Calatrava. Between the arches is a narrow skylight that opens up on temperate days and annually on 9/11.
The Transportation Hub’s $4 billion cost makes it the most expensive U.S. train station, almost doubling its original $2.2 billion budget. The station also takes seven years longer to complete than originally planned.
Two of the station’s below street-level floors house part of the Westfield World Trade Center shopping mall, managed by French commercial real estate company Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW). It replaces a single-level underground mall destroyed on 9/11 beneath the original World Trade Center complex.
Silverstein Properties announces a new design for 2 WTC in 2015 as part of a preliminary deal for News Corp. and 21st Century Fox to lease almost half of the tower’s office space. The design by Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) envisions a building of seven boxes stacked atop each other, with a similar height to the original Foster + Partners design.
After the two U.S. media giants decline to follow through on leasing 2 WTC, Silverstein Properties asks Foster + Partners in January 2020 to significantly modify its 2006 design. The distinctive feature of that original design is the tower’s four segmented diamond-shaped rooftops, sloping downward toward the 9/11 Memorial plaza reflecting pools where the former Twin Towers stood.
Silverstein Properties tells VOA the Foster + Partners redesign process remains under way in the days leading up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, with no confirmed date for the release of new 2 WTC renderings to the public.
Six World Trade Center, an eight-floor building known as U.S. Customs House, opens in 1974. Tenants are primarily federal government agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.
The North Tower’s collapse on 9/11 leaves deep craters in 6 WTC. It is demolished as part of the Ground Zero cleanup.
A new One World Trade Center is under construction on the western part of the original building’s footprint in 2011.
Initially named “Freedom Tower,” its developer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, begins construction on April 27, 2006, after approving a June 2005 design by American architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Childs’ Freedom Tower design is a substantial departure from fellow American architect Daniel Libeskind’s 2002 design approved by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in 2003 as part of a Liebskind master plan for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center complex. But the Childs plan retains one key element of Liebskind’s vision that calls for Freedom Tower to reach a height of 542 meters or 1,776 feet, a figure honoring the year of U.S. independence.
The Port Authority changes Freedom Tower’s name to One World Trade Center on March 27, 2009. New York City-based commercial real estate company The Durst Organization joins the Port Authority as a co-developer of 1 WTC on July 7, 2010.
The builders reach the 80th floor of the planned 104-story tower by September 2011.
A temporary rail station for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) network connecting New York City’s Manhattan borough with northeastern New Jersey is built on the eastern part of the site. It opens on November 23, 2003, restoring Lower Manhattan service that had been suspended since 9/11.
The temporary station (right side of image) eventually will be demolished to make way for a new Performing Arts Center. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a joint New York State-City corporation tasked with revitalizing the area after 9/11, announces its selection in October 2004 of U.S. and Norwegian architectural firms Gehry Partners and Snøhetta to design and build the complex. But by 2011, the final design remains uncertain due to disputes about what kind of programming the center will house and concerns about the high cost of constructing it on top of PATH train tracks and underground vehicle parking spaces.
1 WTC opens for business on November 3, 2014, with publishing giant Condé Nast as its first major tenant, occupying floors 20 to 44. The tower’s 542-meter height, which includes a 124-meter spire on its roof, makes it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Built at a cost of $3.9 billion, 1 WTC’s unique shape consists of a cube-like base from which eight glass isosceles triangles rise upward to form an octagon at its halfway point and another square at its roof, giving the tower an appearance of twisting.
Floors 2 through 19, which form the tower’s base, and 92 through 99 are mechanical floors with no tenants.
1 WTC’s major tourist attraction, One World Observatory, opens to the public on May 29, 2015 on floors 100-102, offering 360-degree New York City views for up to 72 kilometers in all directions. The tower’s 71 elevators include five express cars that bring observatory visitors from the ground to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds.
Other major tenants leasing two or more floors of 1 WTC’s 278,000 square meters of office space include U.S. federal government agencies Customs and Border Protection, Federal Office of Emergency Management and General Services Administration; and companies DAZN Group, Moody’s Investor Service, Stagwell Inc. and Wunderkind (formerly BounceX).
The Durst Organization, which manages 1 WTC, tells VOA the tower’s office space is 90% leased in August 2021.
Below-ground construction of the Performing Arts Center begins in 2018, following the closure of the temporary PATH station on March 3, 2016, its subsequent demolition, and the start of underground parking construction at the site in 2017.
The center’s leadership selects New York architectural firm REX led by Joshua Ramus in November 2015 to redesign the facility, whose original design by Gehry Partners and Snøhetta is scrapped. The center later adds American billionaire businessman Ronald O. Perelman to its name in recognition of his $75 million donation to the project in June 2016. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, grants the center a 99-year lease in February 2018.
Above-ground work on the center begins on September 10, 2019, with the arrival of steel beams and continues through 2021, with a topping off ceremony held on June 23.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says the center is projected to open in 2023.
The 42-meter-tall cube-shaped venue will host theater, dance, music, film and chamber opera in three performance spaces capable of multiple configurations seating 99 to 1,200 people.
Seven World Trade Center, a 47-floor trapezoid-shaped office building, opens in 1987. It is built by American real estate developer Larry Silverstein on land leased from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. At 7 WTC’s base is a Con Edison power station supplying electricity to Lower Manhattan. Investment bank Salomon Smith Barney is the main tenant. Other tenants include American Express Bank International, ITT Hartford Insurance Group, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Standard Chartered Bank.
Occupants evacuate 7 WTC on the morning of 9/11. As the North Tower collapses, debris hits 7 WTC's southern facade, triggering a major fire. Debris from the Twin Towers also damages a water main that supplies 7 WTC's sprinkler system, depriving it of water to douse the flames. The fire burns uncontrolled for almost seven hours until 7 WTC collapses at 5:20 pm on 9/11. There are no fatalities from the building’s collapse.
A 2008 report by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says 7 WTC’s collapse is the first known instance of a tall building brought down primarily by uncontrolled fires. NIST says heat from the uncontrolled fires caused steel floor beams and girders to thermally expand, leading to a chain of events that caused a key structural column to fail. It says that failure initiated a fire-induced progressive collapse of the entire building.
A new 7 WTC (right) opens on May 23, 2006, after construction begins with a groundbreaking ceremony in November 2002.
Larry Silverstein, who built the original 7 WTC, commissions American architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design the new one in the months after 9/11. Silverstein tells the New Yorker magazine: “The old No. 7 was a stone building—heavy, massive. This time around, we will build something much lighter in feel.”
Childs designs a slimmer 52-floor glass tower with a smaller power station at its base, shaped as a parallelogram to allow a restoration of a section of Greenwich Street that had been cut off by the original building.
The new 7 WTC becomes New York City’s first building to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.
Its major tenants include Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Jeffrey Beers International, Mansueto Ventures, Moet Hennessy USA, Moody’s Corporation, New York Academy of Sciences, Silverstein Properties, WilmerHale and Zola.
Silverstein Family Park, a triangular-shaped site built on the eastern side of the original 7 WTC’s footprint, is completed in 2004.
Designed by New York landscape architect Ken Smith, the 1,390 square meter park features a circular fountain surrounded by groves of trees and shrubs. It is intended to be a peaceful refuge for office workers, locals and visitors.
Originally installed in the center of park’s fountain is a red “Balloon Flower” sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons. The stainless-steel 2.7 meter-high sculpture, which becomes the park’s symbol, is removed in October 2018 to be refurbished while the fountain undergoes repairs. The fountain is later restarted, but Silverstein Properties tells VOA the sculpture continues to be refurbished in Europe in August 2021.
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is founded in 1916 by Greek immigrants who settle in Lower Manhattan after arriving at nearby Ellis Island.
They establish the church in a row house that was built around 1830 as a private residence and that they purchased for $25,000. The founders, many of them shipping workers, dedicate the transformed house of worship at 155 Cedar Street to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors.
Saint Nicholas is flattened by the collapse of the South Tower on 9/11. No one is inside the church, which is the only house of worship destroyed in the attacks. In the clean-up at the site, a few religious artifacts are recovered, including a small bell and a paper icon.
After years of negotiations over the fate of the Saint Nicholas site, local and state authorities reach a preliminary agreement with Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in July 2008 for the church to be rebuilt in a future park one block east of the building’s original location. The deal calls for the archdiocese to transfer land rights for the destroyed church’s 155 Cedar Street plot to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, so that the bi-state agency can begin excavating the site to build an underground Vehicle Security Center for the new World Trade Center complex.
In return for the land transfer, the Port Authority agrees to provide the archdiocese with $20 million to rebuild the church on a larger plot at the new location, and agrees to spend a further $20 million to $40 million in building a platform to support the new building above the Vehicle Security Center.
But negotiations to finalize the deal break down in March 2009. The Port Authority moves ahead with excavation work at the former church site in mid-2010, saying it cannot wait any longer to start building the Vehicle Security Center that will serve as a vital underground artery for the rebuilt World Trade Center complex. The archdiocese sues the Port Authority in February 2011, accusing it of trespassing and violating terms of the preliminary land deal.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo mediates a final agreement between the two sides on October 14, 2011, enabling the archdiocese to begin work on designing the new church.
Liberty Park, a 4,000-square-meter landscaped leisure space elevated 7 meters above Liberty Street, opens to the public on June 29, 2016. The rectangular-shaped park sits on the roof of the Vehicle Security Center, a screening facility for trucks and buses entering the World Trade Center’s underground concourse.
American landscape architect Joseph E. Brown’s design of the park, owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is revealed in 2013 and construction of the $50 million project begins the next year.
After its completion, two iconic sculptures are located on the park's elevated platform.
One is German artist Fritz Koenig’s The Sphere, which originally sat in the center of the World Trade Center’s Austin J. Tobin Plaza until being dented by the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. The 7-meter tall bronze sculpture is first re-displayed in nearby Battery Park on March 11, 2002 and remains there until 2012, when park renovations require it to be placed in storage. A public campaign is launched to call for The Sphere’s return to public display at the World Trade Center complex. After Koenig’s death on February 22, 2017, his creation is moved to Liberty Park on September 6 of that year. The Sphere is formally unveiled at the park in a November 29, 2017 ceremony.
The other sculpture is America’s Response Monument by American artist Douwe Blumberg.
The 4-meter-tall bronze work depicts a U.S. Special Operations Forces soldier on horseback, in tribute to the U.S. troops who deployed to Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks and rode Afghan horses in the early stages of their battle against Taliban militants who harbored al-Qaida. Blumberg draws inspiration for the sculpture from U.S. government photos of the American troops who rode on horseback with allied Afghan tribesmen to traverse difficult mountainous terrain in October 2001.
America’s Response Monument is first put on display on November 11, 2011, in the West Street lobby of One World Financial Center, adjacent to Ground Zero. It is relocated and rededicated on October 19, 2012, at an outdoor location on Vesey Street, near the entrance of the temporary PATH rail station and under-construction One World Trade Center. The sculpture makes a final move to Liberty Park and is dedicated for a third time in a ceremony on September 13, 2016.
The World Trade Center’s Vehicle Security Center (VSC) opens for public use, including routine package deliveries for WTC tenants, on October 31, 2014, three days before 1 WTC officially opens for business. The VSC’s Liberty Street entrance serves as an access point and screening facility for pre-approved trucks, buses and cars entering the underground network of roads, loading docks and parking spaces for the various buildings of the WTC complex. No entry is permitted for public parking.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the VSC, authorizes construction of the $667 million project and begins excavations in mid-2010. The VSC entrance structure’s one-story concrete roof is completed in 2013, enabling construction of Liberty Park on the structure’s rooftop to start the following year.
One of the VSC entrance’s most distinctive features is a 91-meter-long “living wall” of plants that descends to street level from the northern edge of the rooftop park.
A 40-floor office building and elevated plaza owned by U.S. banking firm Bankers Trust opens at 130 Liberty Street in 1974. Known as Bankers Trust Plaza, the steel tower has a facade of black aluminum and darkened glass. It is renamed the Deutsche Bank Building after the German bank buys Bankers Trust in 1999.
The Deutsche Bank Building is almost entirely evacuated on 9/11 when debris from the collapsing South Tower leaves a huge gash in its northern facade. A security guard who helped in the evacuation, Francisco Bourdier, is killed. The tower is contaminated with toxic dust from the WTC site and mold caused by rain that blows in through its broken windows. It is shrouded in black netting to prevent falling debris.
Deutsche Bank declares the tower uninhabitable and a total loss in 2002 and demands $1.7 billion from its insurers, two of which disagree and assert that the building can be cleaned and revived. A legal battle begins when Deutsche Bank sues Allianz and AXA in August 2003 to force them to make full payments.
Almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks render the Deutsche Bank Building unusable, its demolition is completed in February 2011 when deconstruction workers reach the basement level.
In a first step toward razing the tower, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a joint New York State-City corporation tasked with revitalizing the area after 9/11, promises to buy the property from Deutsche Bank for $90 million and pay for the demolition process as part of a February 2004 agreement. The deal, mediated by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, also calls for the German bank to receive another $140 million from its insurers, settling their legal dispute over the loss of the tower. Another part of the agreement provides for the footprint of the building, once it is demolished, to be used partly for the construction of a Vehicle Security Center to service the World Trade Center complex. The remainder of the footprint is reserved for the proposed construction of a Five World Trade Center tower that would expand the original perimeter of the WTC complex southward to Albany Street.
LMDC takes ownership of the 130 Liberty Street site on August 31, 2004. But obstacles to a speedy demolition emerge in the following years. Authorities find more harmful substances in the building than anticipated, leading to environmental and financial disputes involving nearby residents, regulators and contractors about the hazardous processes of decontamination and deconstruction. Workers also find bone fragments on the building’s roof in 2005 and 2006 from 9/11 victims of the South Tower’s collapse, delaying demolition plans to enable searches for more human remains. More than 700 bone fragments are found.
Deconstruction finally begins on March 19, 2007, with workers disassembling the tower’s 40th floor. Thirteen more floors are dismantled in the next four months as part of a process in which each floor must be completely decontaminated before it can be demolished.
A large fire breaks out on August 18, 2007, damaging floors 13 through 18 in the tower that had been deconstructed to the 26th floor. Firefighters struggle to douse the flames due to a lack of water from a standpipe broken at the basement and find their exit paths obstructed by temporary walls and sheeting installed by contractors. Two firemen die of smoke inhalation and all deconstruction work in the building is suspended.
Decontamination resumes in May 2008 after the building is deemed structurally sound and fire safety improvements are made and the process is completed in September 2009.
LMDC resumes deconstruction in November 2009. After spending more than $260 million on the six-year-long demolition process with the help of federal government funds, LMDC completes the work in February 2011. It then transfers control of the northern part of the former Deutsche Bank Building site to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin excavations for the construction of a Vehicle Security Center for the WTC complex.
Ten years after authorities finish deconstructing the 9/11-damaged Deutsche Bank Building, the southern part of its footprint remains undeveloped in 2021, as plans for the construction of a future Five World Trade Center tower await approval from several governmental agencies. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation retains ownership of the land parcel known as site 5, which is bounded by Washington, Albany and Greenwich streets.
After the National September 11 Memorial plaza opens to the public in September 2011, LMDC allows the southern portion of site 5 to be used as a waiting area for ticketed visitors to the plaza, which is surrounded by a fence. The site 5 waiting area is vacated on May 15, 2014, when a dedication ceremony is held for the National September 11 Museum and the Memorial plaza’s fence is removed, giving visitors free access to the plaza for the first time.
LMDC decides to develop the vacated southern portion of site 5 into a temporary park as part of a project with Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for Lower Manhattan businesses. The park opens to the public on September 2, 2014. Named Albany Street Plaza, it features benches, trees and a colorful mural on a wall separating it from a police command post.
LMDC allows the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to builds trailers on the northern portion of site 5 in 2014. The trailers contain office space for the Port Authority Police’s World Trade Center Command, which moves into the temporary facility on April 24 of that year.
In a major step toward realizing the vision of a 5 WTC tower, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, LMDC and the Port Authority issue a request for proposals on June 26, 2019, seeking plans from developers to either lease or purchase the site for the construction of a commercial or mixed-use building.
LMDC and the Port Authority decide on February 11, 2021, to enter into exclusive negotiations with a consortium of developers that proposes to lease the site and build a largely residential tower. The 99-year lease would require the developers to pay rent directly to the Port Authority.
The consortium is led by U.S. firm Silverstein Properties and Canadian-owned firm Brookfield Properties and includes two smaller New York-based firms, Omni New York and Dabar Development Partners.
The Port Authority tells VOA that negotiations with the consortium on finalizing the lease for a future 5 WTC continue through August, with no word on when they are likely to conclude.
Almost 20 years after the original church is destroyed on 9/11, construction of a new Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine nears completion at a nearby site in August 2021. It is designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, whom the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America first commissioned to draw up plans for the new building in 2012.
Calatrava’s design, released in 2013, envisions a domed white marble building surrounded by four pillars, modeled on Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, two iconic former Greek Orthodox churches later converted into mosques by Turkish authorities in 2020. Located at 130 Liberty Street on the eastern side of the World Trade Center’s new Liberty Park, construction of the estimated $20 million project begins with a ground-breaking ceremony on October 18, 2014 and reaches a “topping out” stage with a temporary cross placed on the building’s skeletal dome on November 29, 2016.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which agreed to let the archdiocese rebuild the church at 130 Liberty Street as part of a 2011 land swap agreement, signs another deal on August 21, 2017, to lease the site to the archdiocese for 198 years. The new agreement sets the rent for the church-shrine at a nominal $1 per year and gives the archdiocese the option to buy the site at any time during the lease, also for a nominal fee. The archdiocese agrees to let the Port Authority maintain ownership of the site so that the governmental agency retains responsibility for securing permits and regulatory approvals during the construction process.
But building work stops in December 2017 when Swedish construction company Skanska says the archdiocese is not paying it. The archdiocese reveals months earlier that it is in a severe financial deficit that has been building for years and hires PricewaterhouseCoopers in April 2018 to investigate the church-shrine project’s finances and major cost overruns.
The investigators conclude in October 2018 that there is no evidence of fraud or improper usage of funds by archdiocese members. The archdiocese also accepts the investigators’ call for the creation of a new independent entity, “Friends of Saint Nicholas”, to raise funds to complete the stalled project.
The Friends of Saint Nicholas group raises millions of additional dollars from private donations, enabling construction to resume on August 3, 2020. Total raised funds reach $95 million in June 2021, almost five times the original projected cost of the rebuilding.
In a statement to VOA, the archdiocese says the church-shrine’s exterior is expected to be completed by the evening of September 10, 2021, when it will be illuminated from the inside for the first time.
The archdiocese says that while interior work continues into 2022, an opening of the doors ceremony called a thyranoixia will be held on November 2, 2021, to coincide with a New York visit of Turkey-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
The Silverstein Properties and Brookfield Properties-led proposal for a future Five World Trade Center envisions a 274-meter-tall building of about 80 floors.
Renderings of the tower, designed by New York architectural firm Kohn Peterson Fox, are released in February 2021. They show the building with a 48-meter-high rectangular base supporting several tall and intersecting rectangular-shaped blocks. The base includes a street-level retail podium supporting 10 floors mostly for offices with some amenity, community and mechanical space. Above the base are 69 residential floors with 1,325 rental apartments, totaling 111,000 square meters of residential space. One quarter of the units are designated as “permanently affordable” housing that will be offered to households with annual incomes of $51,200 or less.
Authorities say the process of securing governmental approvals for the Silverstein-Brookfield-led proposal will continue into 2022. They say that if the 5 WTC plan secures final approval on schedule, they expect construction to start in 2023 and conclude in 2028.
As part of the approvals process, the developers must seek permission from various agencies to change the World Trade Center’s original General Project Plan (GPP) that designates 5 WTC as an office tower. Community members also will be asked for their input on changing the GPP.
A group of Lower Manhattan residents and housing advocates criticize the 5 WTC plan, saying it provides far too little affordable housing in what is essentially a luxury residential tower. They form the Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5 WTC to try to press the authorities and developers to radically re-think the proposal.
The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine will be the only religious edifice within the World Trade Center complex. The nave of the new building will be used for Greek Orthodox prayer services, while a 2nd floor bereavement space and 3rd floor social hall will be used for nondenominational and interfaith remembrance, educational and cultural programs.
In a statement to VOA, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America says the building’s interior construction will be completed by the start of Easter Holy Week in April 2022. It says the church-shrine will open for public worship on Easter Sunday and for visits by non-worshippers after Holy Week.
The archdiocese says that once the building opens for worship, it plans to exercise its right to buy the property from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a nominal fee. It says a festive consecration service also is planned for the church-shrine in July 2022 to celebrate the religious organization’s 100th anniversary.
The archdiocese says the National Shrine will be a “cenotaph” to those killed on 9/11 and a symbol of America’s freedom of religion and “triumph of light over darkness”. It says the building is likely to be a key destination for visitors to the nearby September 11 Memorial & Museum and predicts it will become the most visited Orthodox Christian church by non-Orthodox Christians in the world.
A 16-floor office building at 30 West Broadway opens in 1959. It is purchased in 1978 by businessman Miles Fiterman. He and his wife Shirley donate the building to City University of New York’s Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1993.
Valued at $30 million, the building is the most valuable gift ever given to a U.S. community college at the time. CUNY, a New York State-controlled public university, renames the building Fiterman Hall in honor of the couple's donation and repurposes it to house 40 classrooms and computer labs. The new facilities help BMCC to ease a shortage of classroom space at its main hub several blocks away.
More than 1,000 students, faculty and staff are inside Fiterman Hall on the morning of 9/11, as the building is undergoing a renovation that began in 2000 to install new classroom infrastructure and transform it into a $275 million facility. The renovations are several weeks from being completed, when occupants of Fiterman Hall hear the explosion from American Airlines Flight 11 hitting the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Seeing the impact of the blast a block away, Fiterman Hall's faculty and staff dismiss their classes and evacuate the building.
After the Twin Towers collapse, Fiterman Hall staff relocate to BMCC’s main campus several blocks away to help Port Authority personnel convert a gym into a triage site.
At 5:20pm, the collapse of 7 WTC across the street from Fiterman Hall causes a huge pile of debris to pile up against the college’s southern facade and penetrate the exterior.
Toxic dust and mold infest the building, making it uninhabitable. Workers seal holes in the structure and cover it with black netting in the weeks after the attacks.
CUNY calls for Fiterman Hall to be torn down and rebuilt and laments that it is the only U.S. higher education facility to be severely damaged in a terror attack.
Construction of a new Fiterman Hall is nearing completion in 2011 following years of delays in demolishing its damaged predecessor.
In the first few years after 9/11, the damaged Fiterman Hall remains shrouded as CUNY argues with insurers about the building's fate. Insurance company FM Global asserts that Fiterman Hall can be repaired, while CUNY insists it is unsalvageable. The dispute is resolved in 2004 when FM Global agrees to a $90 million settlement with CUNY for the damage to the building.
Later in 2004, CUNY hires architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners to devise a Fiterman Hall decontamination and demolition plan that protects the surrounding area from toxins inside the building. The firm also is tasked with designing and eventually constructing a new Fiterman Hall on the same site. But more delays ensue as the plans are subject to protracted regulatory reviews and as CUNY seeks sufficient city and state funding to move forward with the project.
CUNY's plans suffer a setback in 2007 when a deadly fire halts the deconstruction of the nearby Deutsche Bank Building, also irreparably damaged by the 9/11 attacks. The fire raises new safety concerns about the pending deconstruction of Fiterman Hall and regulators require CUNY to submit revised proposals that are subject to further review.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves CUNY’s decontamination plan for Fiterman Hall in March 2008 and the process begins. CUNY gets another boost on November 13 of that year when authorities announce an agreement to finance the $325 million cost of demolishing the old building and constructing the new one. The financing includes $139 million from New York City’s government, $80 million from CUNY’s insurance settlement, and additional funds from CUNY and New York state authorities.
Decontamination of the old Fiterman Hall is completed in May 2009 and deconstruction starts, reaching ground level in November of that year. CUNY moves quickly to start rebuilding, holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fiterman Hall on December 1.
Almost 11 years after the old Fiterman Hall is irreparably damaged on 9/11, the new Fiterman Hall opens for its first classes on August 27, 2012, as interior construction continues in some parts of the building. Among the facilities still being built are a fine art gallery and a public cafe.
After interior construction is complete, the rebuilt Fiterman Hall contains about 37,100 square meters of usable floor space, compared to 34,800 square meters in its predecessor.
The new 14-story building stands out from its surrounding office buildings with a red brick-and-glass exterior designed to enable passersby to see what is happening inside and encourage community use of its facilities, which include a rooftop conference center.
Fiterman Hall’s 80 new classrooms and computer labs feature advanced educational technology and boost BMCC’s classroom capacity in 2012 by a third, easing overcrowding at its main Chambers Street campus where many students had attended classes in trailers.
The new Fiterman Hall’s designers, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, say its amenities and “vibrant atmosphere of dynamic, light-filled spaces make a vital contribution to the continued rejuvenation of the neighborhood.”
The World Trade Center towers and plaza are dedicated in a ceremony on April 4, 1973. The plaza's centerpiece, installed in 1972, is a bronze sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig.
A study by Columbia University art history professor Holger A. Klein shows that the sculpture’s story begins in 1967, when American architect and World Trade Center designer Minoru Yamasaki contacts Koenig to ask him to design a large fountain sculpture for the yet-to-be-built WTC Plaza. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approves of Koenig’s small-scale model of the sculpture in 1968 and commissions him to create the full-scale version, which he begins working on later that year in Germany. After completing the sculpture, he sends it to the port of Bremen to be shipped in a wooden crate to New York, where it arrives in early 1972 ahead of its installation in the WTC Plaza.
Named “Great Caryatid Sphere, N.Y.” by Koenig, the Port Authority executive director Austin J. Tobin praises the rotating sculpture as a symbol of world peace through trade. New Yorkers commonly refer to it simply as “The Sphere.”
After Tobin's death in 1978, the Port Authority renames the WTC Plaza as Austin J. Tobin Plaza in his honor.
The collapse of the Twin Towers destroys the plaza, but The Sphere suffers only slight damage. It is moved temporarily to nearby Battery Park in 2002 and put on display as a tribute to the victims of the attacks.
A new 9/11 Memorial plaza is nearing completion in July 2011 on the site of the former Austin J. Tobin Plaza. It opens to the public on September 12, a day after the 10th anniversary of the attacks. At the center of the plaza is a new above-ground pavilion for an underground 9/11 Memorial Museum that remains under construction.
The process of developing the memorial and museum complex begins in July 2002, when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a joint New York State-City corporation tasked with revitalizing the area after 9/11, creates a draft mission statement for the project. LMDC’s board of directors approves the final mission statement in April 2003 after seeking input from families of 9/11 victims, survivors, first responders, area residents and others. The statement authorizes a newly incorporated World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, as it is originally named, to “own, construct, operate and maintain a memorial and related structures and appurtenances on the site of the World Trade Center.” A key early task of the foundation is to fundraise for the project through soliciting charitable contributions, an activity that LMDC is barred from conducting due to its status as a state agency. The foundation applies for tax-exempt status in September 2003 and obtains federal approval shortly thereafter, enabling it to start receiving private donations.
Preliminary construction of the memorial project commences in March 2006 with workers building protective enclosures around the surviving perimeter columns at the bases of the Twin Towers. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agrees to take over the entire construction of the project in July 2006 after New York state and city authorities decide it is quicker and less expensive for one entity to be in charge of all building work in the WTC complex.
The foundation changes its name to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center in August 2007 to better reflect the project’s mission of commemorating a national tragedy.
The new 9/11 Memorial Museum is dedicated in a May 15, 2014, ceremony led by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and 9/11 Memorial chairman Michael Bloomberg. Fences around the 9/11 Memorial plaza are removed on the same day, enabling free public access for the first time. The museum opens to the public on May 21 after eight years of construction whose cost, including the memorial plaza that opened in 2011, totals $700 million. The museum and memorial complex is the most expensive to be built in the United States.
The above-ground entry pavilion is designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, while the below-ground museum spaces are designed by New York City-based architectural firm Davis Brody Bond. Its exhibition spaces are designed by New York City firms Thinc Design and Local Projects, LLC and Illinois-based Layman Design.
The museum features 10,200 square meters of space devoted to telling the story of 9/11 and the February 26, 1993, terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center through artifacts, imagery, personal stories, and interactive technology. Visitors make a ramped descent into a vast underground cavity where the original WTC complex was based. The museum’s two main spaces are the Memorial Hall featuring a wall with a giant line of text quoting ancient Roman poet Virgil saying “No day shall erase you from the memory of time;” and the Foundation Hall containing a section of the WTC’s original slurry wall, a retaining wall built to keep out waters of the nearby Hudson River when the site was excavated in the mid-1960s.
Other highlights of the museum include the Survivor’s Stairs, a staircase that was part of the original elevated WTC Plaza and provided a lifeline to office workers fleeing the WTC complex on 9/11; and the Last Column, a piece of WTC steel that was the last to be removed from Ground Zero at the end of recovery work at the site in May 2002.
One controversial feature of the underground complex is a repository for unidentified and unclaimed remains of WTC victims from 9/11. It is located behind the museum’s Memorial Hall wall bearing the Virgil quotation and is accessible only to staff of New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner. A private space exclusively for relatives of 9/11 victims called the Reflection Room is next to the repository. At the time of the museum’s opening, the repository houses about 8,000 pieces of human remains that medical examiners are tasked with trying to identify as part of an open-ended operation at an off-site DNA lab.
Some family members of WTC victims protest the repository, saying it is insensitive to house the potential remains of their loved ones deep underground in a space adjacent to a major tourist attraction. Other relatives see the underground repository as an appropriate facility.
Debate also erupts over the museum’s original $24 standard ticket price for adults, with some 9/11 victims’ family members calling it excessive. Supporters say the adult ticket price, which has since risen to $26, is consistent with the scale and value of the museum and memorial complex, whose operating and management expenses for 2019 total $73 million.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum says more than 17 million people have visited the museum since its May 2014 opening. It says more than 50 million people from around the world have visited the Memorial plaza since it opened in 2011.