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Construction Still Slow At World Trade Center Site


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Thousands gathered today at the World Trade Center site in New York. They marked the 11th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. Family members of the victims took turns reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Janice Marie Ashley.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Manuel O. Asitimbay.


CORNISH: Looming above the solemn ceremony was a new skyscraper known as One World Trade Center. The 104-story building now fills part of the hole in the skyline left by the Twin Towers.

But NPR's Joel Rose reports the rest of the site is still very much a work in progress.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: I'm standing at the foot of One World Trade Center, which as you can hear behind me is still under construction. When it's finished, it's supposed to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It is already the tallest in New York City. Officials here held a press conference when it surpassed the Empire State Building earlier this year.

SCOTT RECHLER: This is more than a job for this team. It's been an act of passion and an act of patriotic duty.

ROSE: Scott Rechler is the vice chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center site.

RECHLER: It's a symbol of determination and ingenuity, of the men and women who've worked tirelessly to build perhaps what is the most complex construction project in our history.

ROSE: Besides the country's tallest skyscraper, the project includes several other office towers, a major train station, and cultural centers, none of which are even close to completion. One building that was supposed to open this year is the National September 11th Museum, but construction was halted for months because of a dispute involving some of New York's most powerful politicians: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is chairman of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation; and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who shares control of the Port Authority.

The standoff was mostly about who should pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in disputed construction costs. Here's Cuomo speaking yesterday to a radio interviewer.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Everybody agrees we want to build the museum. We also have to do it in a way that is financially feasible. The Port Authority is not rolling in money, as you know. And we just did a toll increase and I don't want to do another one.

ROSE: But last night, on the eve of the anniversary, the two sides announced an agreement, one Cuomo says will not force the Port Authority to raise tolls on New York bridges and tunnels, as it did last year.

Here's Mayor Bloomberg speaking to a local TV news reporter today.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Everybody understood that we had to get this done. There was never an issue as to whether we should do it or whether it would happen.

ROSE: The memorial foundation agreed to cover at least $24 million of past and future construction costs, not an insurmountable sum for an organization that's raised more than 450 million in private donations. Construction could resume by the end of the month. That's a relief to the museum's president, Joe Daniels.

JOE DANIELS: Those precious artifacts that we've been entrusted with, they need a home. That's why we're doing this. I mean, the stories of those people who died, the story of this country's sacrifice, needs to get told, and the museum is going to be the place to do it.

ROSE: For those who've been following the reconstruction at Ground Zero from the beginning, turf battles and political infighting are nothing new. Architecture critic Paul Goldberger is the author of the book "Up From Zero." He's not shocked at the slow pace of reconstruction or the rising price tag, now approaching $15 billion. But in the long run, Goldberger says none of that is likely to matter much.

PAUL GOLDBERGER: When something is done and people like it, they never turn to each other and say, gee, what a shame it took so long. I mean, people will respond to the experience they have when they go there and when they see it. They don't care how long it took to build.

ROSE: People seem to like the National September 11th Memorial. More than four and a half million people have visited since it opened a year ago.

Joel Rose, NPR News New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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