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NY Transit Center Opens to Mixed Reviews

Thursday, March 3, 2016

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The new World Trade Center Transportation Hub has a lot of roles to fill—from serving as a symbol of the city’s rebirth to a daily commuter facility—but it is also drawing criticism from an executive of the agency that controls it.

At a cost of $4 billion, the Santiago Calatrava-designed structure has been tagged a “symbol of excess” by Peter Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the hub.

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Photos: Silverstein Properties Inc.

The $4 billion, Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub partially opens to the public Thursday (March 3).

That is roughly the same figure it cost to build the 104-story One World Trade Center tower that sits nearby, according to the Associated Press.

"The cost of projects, big and small, matters—a lot," Foye said to the AP in a statement through a spokesman. "Whether due to unforeseen conditions, errors or misconduct, cost overruns consume precious resources and undermine public confidence."

The final cost is reported to be twice as much as the original estimate supplied by Calatrava when he revealed his design in 2004, amNewYork reported Tuesday (March 1).

An Architect’s Vision

The new WTC Hub sits in Lower Manhattan, located immediately to the east of the original World Trade Center Twin Towers. The project replaces the original Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system that was destroyed Sept. 11, 2001. It also connects to 11 New York City subway trains and the new Fulton Street Transit Center.

Its primary design feature is the “Oculus,” a free-standing structure comprised of steel ribs and glass arrayed in a large elliptical shape. The ribs extend to create two canopies over the north and south portions of the plaza, according to the Spanish architect’s project overview.

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Between the arches, a 330-foot operable skylight frames a slice of the New York sky and is intended to bring natural light down into the space for commuters.

The rafters spread out from two 350-foot arches flanking the project's central axis. Between the arches, a 330-foot operable skylight frames a slice of the New York sky and is intended to bring natural light down into the space for commuters. It will also be opened in warm weather as well as, in remembrance, annually on Sept.11.

Calatrava likened the effect of the design as being reminiscent of a bird in flight. Some see that bird as a dove symbolizing peace, while others see it as a phoenix rising from the ashes, according to various reports.

"The station, in its beauty and grandiosity, represents a testimony of faith and hope in the future of New York," Calatrava said, as reported by amNewYork Tuesday.

Subdued Opening

The new WTC Hub is scheduled to open partially Thursday (March 3); however, there are no opening-day activities scheduled, possibly because the access to subway lines and PATH trains will not be available fully for several more months, Reuters noted.

The March 3 opening will offer access to the underground shopping area. Cafes and stores are expected to fill the 75,000 square feet of available retail space, but according to news site, the space is practically unoccupied at this time. Many of the expected shop tenants are not scheduled to open until August, the site added.

Silverstein Properties Inc

Approximately 75,000 square feet of space in the complex is dedicated to food and retail operations (shown here in a rendering), which are scheduled to open in August.

Another potential cause for the lack of fanfare is the criticism of the project’s doubling of expenses to $3.9 billion, according to the Port Authority. The agency says these cost escalations came from overruns and delays resulting from both the architect’s “exacting demands” and the difficulty of building the complex simultaneous to the construction of the Sept. 11 museum and new office towers, AP reported.

A local, Lizzy Paulino, told Reuters, “There are so many other things they could have spent that money on—like fixing the roads and subways.”

Others say the new complex lacks purpose, said, because it will not serve as many commuters as Penn Station or the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Hub Supporters

Not all Port Authority officials share Foye’s stance. Steve Plate, the chief of major capital projects for the Port Authority, refers to the facility as "the eighth wonder of the world."

Plate is referring to the structural design element that allows the sun to shine through the structure’s opening "on Sept. 11 at 10:28, when the last tower fell, to capture that light and remember that moment," according to the AP.

Additionally, the agency notes, the structure is remarkable in that “the new complex was built around, beneath and above an existing, still-operating subway line.”

In a separate amNewYork report, Sanjive Vaidya, the chair of the department of architectural technology at New York City College of Technology, told the news site the grand scale of the project connects back to the old New York way of thinking that “big public spaces should be iconic.”

"It really is a spectacular space and I think what is critical about this is there needs to be a re-engagement. We have to bring back an emphasis on public space and the systems that serve us," he said.

Likewise, Plate stood up for the building's design and resulting costs.

"We had an obligation to do something very special," he said. "We did it very wisely, very prudently, very intensely to make sure we got the best product, the best quality and the most historic structure ... We feel very strongly that the mission has been accomplished."

He added that the new hub is expected to pay back its costs in seven years.


Tagged categories: Infrastructure; North America; Port Authority of New Jersey; Port Authority of New York; Program/Project Management; Rail; Santiago Calatrava; Transportation

Comment from Gordon Kuljian, (3/3/2016, 10:51 AM)

Looks like a giant creature from another planet landed in the middle of Manhattan! Better hope that the steel doesn't start to corrode anytime soon - that would be a challenge to repair. Anyone know what paint system was used?

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