Freedom Tower Construction to begin in July

Construction is set to begin on the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower as early as July 4.

New York Gov. George E. Pataki announced the official ground-breaking date during a speech in Lower Manhattan on May 5. Although construction was not originally set to begin until fall, Pataki said the date will symbolize the resurgence of New York City.

“On July 4th, as we celebrate the birth of our democracy, we also celebrate the rebirth of our City,” Pataki said in a public statement. “As we commemorate the founding of our nation, we lay the foundation for our resurgence. We will begin to reclaim our skyline with a permanent symbol of our freedom.”

Once built, the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower will be the tallest structure in the world. Prior to Pataki’s announcement, however, some critics were skeptical that the project would even get off the ground. On May 3, site developer Larry A. Silverstein lost his 29-month-long court battle with insurance companies. Silverstein had originally contended that he was owed two payments of $877 million because he viewed the September 11, 2001, attacks as separate attacks on the two towers. A federal jury disagreed, and ruled that the largest insurer of the World Trade Center had to pay a single payout. Silverstein originally wanted to collect $7.1 billion from the insurers, but court rulings have limited him to a maximum of $4.68 billion, if he wins the rest of his cases.

Due to Silverstein’s legal setbacks, some have questioned whether the four other office buildings surrounding the Freedom Tower will be built. According to Pataki, however, plans for the Freedom Tower are concrete because financing has already been assured for its construction. The last World Trade Center building to fall, 7 World Trade Center, is currently under construction, and damage suffered during the attacks is being repaired at the nearby Con Edison power substation. By the end of May, the power station will be powering much of the work at Ground Zero and throughout Lower Manhattan.