RAY SUAREZ: Visit the World Trade Center site today and you'll see new panels time-lining the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, along the fence surrounding the 16-acre crater. There's a shiny new entrance to the commuter train station at the northeast corner. The nearby hotels, shops and the trains are up and running.
But the centerpiece of the World Trade Center reconstruction, the torquing, crystalline Freedom Tower, is not under way, sent back to the drawing board after the New York Police Department identified serious security shortcomings in the latest design. The police department raised concerns in April about whether the tower would be secure enough against a possible car bomb. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly outlined his criticism in a letter to New York Governor George Pataki.
RAYMOND KELLY: We've been concerned about security there for quite awhile. As I say, we've been involved in these discussions since November of 2003.
RAY SUAREZ: Grand plans to rebuild were unveiled two years ago, but there's been little change in the site itself since the cleanup ended in May 2003. The only substantial construction on the site was done 18 months ago, a new station for trains crossing the Hudson River from New Jersey.
During a recent visit to the site, Robert Ivy, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record Magazine, explained what the site is supposed to eventually hold.
ROBERT IVY: Among the best known minds in the world are operating on this site. The firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill has the contract for the design of Freedom Tower, which will reside on the northwest corner just behind us.
We will have close to where we're standing a $2 billion transit station by Santiago Calatrava, the great European architect who's moved to New York. We will also have a memorial that opened to great fanfare as a design about a year and a half ago. Twin pools will set on one corner of the site marking the footprints of the actual towers that had been here.
And we will have, possibly, a museum and also two theaters, one designed by -- one building, the theater, designed by Frank Gehry, the great California architect; and the cultural center/museum designed by a very up-and-coming young firm that is Norwegian and American in origin called Snohetta.
RAY SUAREZ: The 20-ton cornerstone for the Freedom Tower was laid last July 4. The Freedom Tower and the master redevelopment plan for the site was initially designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. But his single vision and the site plan soon fell victim to the political and financial power struggles that plague many high-profile building projects in New York.
Among them, the Trade Center's leaseholder, developer Larry Silverstein insisted his own architect, David Childs, be one of the Freedom Tower's designers. Robert Ivy says he wasn't surprised at the new roadblocks to building the Freedom Tower.
ROBERT IVY: I think at this stage in the development nothing surprises us anymore, and, certainly, I think any thinking person knows that security has to be of paramount concern. I think there are questions raised about the moment that this particular decision and set of concerns came forward. It's fairly late in the process.
The plain truth is it's hard to protect a skyscraper in New York or in any other city. And the architects, I know, the planners, and the client had full intent of making the safest tall building in the world. The lead architect, David Childs, had stated so repeatedly and had studied the site extensively.
Now, whether the police department's concerns supersede all the planning that has gone before, they do, apparently. And so Childs et. al, will go back to the drawing boards and make the building sit back further, reduce its proximity to the street, where some casual passerby could cause harm, and perhaps they'll harden the base of the building even more than they had planned to.
RAY SUAREZ: During a speech last week, Gov. Pataki outlined his plan to revive the rebuilding effort, which is expected to cost roughly $12 billion.
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI: Failure to rebuild is not an option -- not now, and not ever. We will not tolerate unnecessary delays.
RAY SUAREZ: So Pataki tapped one of his closest aides, chief of staff John Cahill, to oversee his initiatives.
JOHN CAHILL: There is an overall plan, vision, that the governor has set for this site that I think all the stakeholders are committed to seeing happen.
RAY SUAREZ: When the Libeskind design for both the tower and the master plan for the site and the train station and the memorial were all finally approved, it felt like all the pieces were in place. Well, what happened?
JOHN CAHILL: The pieces are in place. The master site plan devised by Daniel Libeskind has not been affected. We're going to have a soaring Freedom Tower to make a statement for the world about freedom. We are going to have a befitting memorial for those -- to remember those who died on Sept. 11. We're going to have a remarkable Path station.
Those things have not changed. There has been issues, obviously, with the security surrounding the Freedom Tower. The NYPD and the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein's crew have worked very hard to address those concerns.
RAY SUAREZ: Is the Freedom Tower going to have to be resited, repositioned? Are the lower floors going to have to be redesigned?
JOHN CAHILL: There certainly will be additional security measures taken for the site to ensure that it's not only the greatest building in the world, but also the safest building in the world. It will not be a fortress; it will be a world class office building, but also, most importantly, a testament to freedom to the world.
RAY SUAREZ: One of Cahill's big tasks is reassuring corporate tenants that they should take up residence at the high-profile site. In recent weeks, investment firm Goldman Sachs abandoned its plan to build a new $2 billion headquarters across from the Trade Center site.
JOHN CAHILL: I think the way you address any uncertainty is to take the issue head on, tell them what you're doing with respect to security on the site, tell them what the plans are for security for the Freedom Tower. The entire site will be unmatched with respect to security. And you also convince the financial interests and the business community to relocate by building a world-class transportation center, which we are going to have. It's going to be much more accessible.
When you put those issues on the table for business -- and security, obviously, number one concern, but also improving accessibility to the site -- I think businesses are going to find this an extraordinarily attractive place to work and live.
RAY SUAREZ: That may not be so easy, says Robert Ivy. He points to the almost complete 7 World Trade Center just to the north of the site as an example.
ROBERT IVY: The building behind us, 7 World Trade Center, which is a Silverstein property and also designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, remains largely unleased. Money dictates the future, in a sense, and so, at this moment, we have one empty building, the hope of a building that's many times this size, which we think will not quickly lease. There are plans for four other large towers that Silverstein has floated surrounding this site that may happen during my grandchildren's era.
DONALD TRUMP: Good morning...
RAY SUAREZ: And today, real estate mogul Donald Trump, who's dismissed the Freedom Tower plan as a "monstrous skeleton," touted an alternative design to build new, taller twin towers on the site. Trump's impact remains to be determined. Cahill said the governor has set out an ambitious timetable for rebuilding the site, but he plans to continue on schedule.
JOHN CAHILL: We certainly expect a redesign from Larry Silverstein by the end of June. We expect a groundbreaking on the Calatrava Train Station, which is going to be absolutely fantastic, by the end of the summer.
And we expect to have a groundbreaking for the memorial in March of '06. Very ambitious, but I think, with the dedication of the unifying force that we just talked about, everybody's committed to making that a reality.
RAY SUAREZ: And a fully built-out developed site by -- ?
JOHN CAHILL: It is going to -- the whole site for the towers two through five will certainly take time -- no one's expecting that to be done in a matter of years. It will probably take until 2010, 2012 to have the site fully developed. But the most important components of the site -- the memorial, the Freedom Tower, the Calatrava Train Station -- are going to take priorities, and they will be completed by 2009, 2010.
So it's certainly much more than a normal development process and -- but that, I think, is a plus, because the people, the stakeholders, also share that vision, also share this commitment that it's not just another development project. It's something much more important to the city and to this country that we do this and we do it right.