Preserving the World Trade Center Site
Honoring the Site and Artifacts
The Landmarks Conservancy, as a member of the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund (LMEPF), has worked successfully with Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and other preservation and civic groups to have the World Trade Center Site determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A programmatic agreement was signed in 2004 that will ensure that rebuilding projects over the next ten years take into account and attempt to preserve the surviving historic elements of the 16-acre site including the box-beam perimeter columns that outline where the Twin Towers once stood.
The Conservancy is also represented on a Memorial Center Advisory Committee that determined the mission of the new memorial center to be built on site and evaluate which artifacts removed during the recovery and cleanup efforts – such as portions of building facades – will be returned.
Saving the Survivors’ Staircase
The Conservancy, LMEPF, and other civic groups are working with the Port Authority to ensure that the Survivors’ Staircase will be preserved as on site rebuilding takes place. This is the only above ground portion of the World Trade Center Site that survived the terrorist attacks, as well as recovery and cleanup. This structure stands on the north side of the World Trade Center site, near the intersection of Greenwich and Vesey Streets. The World Trade Center Survivors’ Network is working to call attention to the importance of the staircase.
The fight to save the Survivors’ Staircase at Ground Zero heightened in fall 2006 when developer Larry Silverstein unveiled plans for Tower Two that eliminated the staircase. Silversten Properties said the Ground Zero master plan and anti-terrorism concerns dictated their design. The architects “solution” was to chop out two stairs from the staircase, place them outside the tower, and outline where the staircase stood on the lobby floor of the new tower.
In the summer of 2007, we agreed to a compromise that will place the stairway in the 9/11 memorial museum. The 38-step escape route was moved on March 9, 2008, to a temporary location for later installation into the museum.
This past August, the Conservancy hired respected engineer Robert Silman to show how the 21-foot high, 64-foot long staircase could be preserved in place during construction, or moved and returned as construction of the tower was completed. The LMEPF agreed that moving and returning the staircase was more practicable. The Conservancy also reached out to the Police Department for a meeting with the anti-terrorism task force to discuss ways to ensure the safety of the staircase.
The LMEPF is pressing its case under Section 106, a federal law requiring that projects using federal and state monies show how they are protecting historic resources affected by the project. The entire 16 acres of Ground Zero were declared eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places by the federal government. The Survivors’ Staircase was specifically mentioned as an historic element at the site.
The Conservancy, the LMEPF, and Robert Silman believe that the staircase could have been incorporated into the tower design without compromising the integrity of the master plan or the necessary security precautions.
In March 2007, the members of the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund launched a national email campaign to thank Governor Spitzer for his support of saving the Staircase. We also encouraged advocates to email the Port Authority Board urging that the Staircase be saved.
Conservancy’s Leadership Garners Press
Public support for saving the staircase grew over the past several months thanks to articles in the New York Times and Parade magazine. The national magazine, Parade, took an online poll, and more than 12,000 of its readers voted overwhelmingly to save the staircase. Conservancy President Peg Breen was quoted in the article, which led to interviews on radio talk shows in San Antonio and Pittsburgh. Support for the staircase is strong in both those cities.