Da The New York Times del 11/09/2006
Originale su http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/11/nyregion/nyregionspecial3/11groundze...

Broken Ground

The Hole in the City’s Heart

di Deborah Sontag

On July Fourth two years ago, eight weeks before the Republican National Convention in New York City, Gov. George E. Pataki traveled from the Hamptons summer home of his senior economic adviser, Charles A. Gargano, to the dusty crater in the center of Lower Manhattan.

Draped in the symbolism of Independence Day, the two men descended into the baking-hot pit at ground zero. There they oversaw the ceremonial laying of a 20-ton Adirondack granite cornerstone — flecked with garnet, the state gem — for what was to be the first building to rise at the new World Trade Center: the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower.

“How badly our enemies underestimated the resiliency of this city and the resolve of these United States,” Mr. Pataki said.

For almost two years after that day’s Declaration of Independence reading and “God Bless America” singing, the cornerstone sat forlornly in the 16-acre depression, waiting for a beacon of hope to soar above it. Even as a building redesign left the cornerstone in the wrong place, it waited, inside a blue shed surrounded, often, by a brackish moat.

During that time, Larry A. Silverstein, the commercial leaseholder of the World Trade Center site, often found himself gazing down at the stone, remembering the way he had smiled through his teeth at the July Fourth ceremony. “The whole thing was speeches,” he said. “To me, it was illusory, almost like a farce. People were thinking, ‘God, this is wonderful,’ when I knew in my heart that it was sheer rubbish.”

Then, this June, after construction actually began on the substructure of the Freedom Tower, the cornerstone was in the way. Mr. Silverstein’s workers used a crane to hoist it from the site, transferring it to a flatbed for a journey that would reverse the one that the governor made on Independence Day 2004: from ground zero out to Long Island, where it is now stored.

Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, ground zero remains a 16-acre, 70-foot-deep hole in the heart of Lower Manhattan. High above it, a scaffolded bank building, contaminated during the attack, hulks like a metal skeleton, waiting endlessly to be razed.

The wreck that still stands tall and the pit that still sinks deep sum up the troubled history of ground zero. A site of horrific tragedy whose rescue and cleanup operation was a model of valiant efficiency, ground zero turned into a sinkhole of good intentions where it was as difficult to demolish a building as to construct one.

For all that has not yet risen from the ashes, there has been considerable sturm und drang, “like a novel, a cheap novel,” said Daniel Libeskind, the master planner for the site. The combination of big money, prime real estate, bottomless grief, artistic ego and dreams of legacy transformed ground zero into a mosh pit of stakeholders banging heads over billions in federal aid, tax breaks and insurance proceeds.

Only now, after a whirlwind of negotiations to resolve crises in advance of the fifth anniversary, is subterranean work substantially under way, raising the hope that reconstruction may proceed. Even so, many family members of victims are quick to point out that they still have nowhere to go to mourn their loved ones and only shaken faith that they will see a fitting memorial in the near future.

Governor Pataki, who assumed control of the reconstruction effort in the earliest days, did not intend it to be so protracted. In the spring of 2003, pressed by business leaders who had denounced the anemic pace of rebuilding, Mr. Pataki promised to be “bold and daring and swift.”

Standing in a hotel ballroom, he pledged that the skyline would be restored by this fifth anniversary when the Freedom Tower, as he christened it that day, would be topped off at 1,776 feet. By the end of 2006, he continued, a grand new PATH terminal and Fulton Street Transit Center would open, the substructure for a memorial would be built and a grand piazza, the Wedge of Light, would be created.

None of this has come to pass.

Lower Manhattan itself has experienced an unexpected resurgence with the conversion of outdated office buildings to luxury residential properties. “The problem,” as John C. Whitehead, 84, the former chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said baldly in an interview last spring, “is the 16-acre ditch.”

To Julie Menin, the chairwoman of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, the ditch represents the “colossal failure” of the reconstruction effort. John E. Zuccotti, whose company is a principal owner of the neighboring World Financial Center, sees it more charitably. He would give officials “an A for planning,” given the challenges posed by “a situation where more than 2,700 have been murdered.”

“Where it has stumbled,” he said crisply, “has been in the execution.”

Not long after Sept. 11, it became apparent that ground zero had very many owners, from its technical owners — the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Mr. Silverstein — to those who possessed a different kind of claim on the site.

There were developers, architects, politicians, insurers, community residents, relatives of Sept. 11 victims and multiple competing government entities. “Too many cooks,” Mr. Whitehead said. And they all viewed ground zero differently.

Where some saw lucrative real estate, others saw a graveyard. Where some saw Rockefeller Center or Lincoln Center or Grand Central Terminal, others saw Gettysburg.

By destroying 16 acres of Manhattan, Sept. 11 produced “an opportunity, as horrible as that sounds,” said Anthony G. Cracchiolo, a former Port Authority executive, referring, in his case, to the opportunity to remake a century-old transit system.

For many in government and business, it provided the heady opportunity, also, to participate in history, to “wear the ring,” as development officials used to say.

Ambitions were grand, or, critics would say, grandiose, leading to plans for: the tallest building in the country, the most expensive commuter rail station ($2.2 billion), the costliest memorial complex (at least $740 million) and the most technologically advanced “vehicle security center” ($478 million).

Despite $20 billion in federal money and $4.6 billion anticipated in insurance proceeds, however, the site’s two central projects, the Freedom Tower and the memorial, have stumbled financially, as in every other way.

Some victims’ family members consider it a skewed priority that the World Trade Center transportation hub is claiming about 13 percent of the direct federal aid while the memorial, which recently underwent cost-cutting and depends on a fund-raising campaign, is getting only about 1.6 percent.

“They saw 9/11 as an opportunity to right all the wrongs of Lower Manhattan,” said Edith Lutnick, the executive director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re doing it in the name of 9/11, then take care of 9/11 first.”

Over the last five years, as problems arose, blame was assigned to a shifting cast of colorful characters for standing in the way of progress, including: Mr. Silverstein, who was portrayed as a greedy businessman, the architects Daniel Libeskind and Michael Arad, who were labeled difficult and precious, and the most vocal relatives of victims, who were treated as if they were addled by grief.

Ultimately, however, politicians and public institutions bear responsibility for what did and did not occur. As a clangorous public process played out, decisions were made and unmade behind closed doors. Nobody wanted to play the role of a Robert Moses, the fabled planning czar who used to bulldoze projects into existence, and yet the complexity of this reconstruction effort demanded a strong leader.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg did not, and, he said, could not, play that role because the city possesses no direct control over the site. “It is what it is,” he said in an interview. “This is Port Authority land.” His reconstruction vision — that housing and schools should be built — was never even entertained, and his preference for a modest memorial was rebuffed when, as he put it, “everybody voted against me, and that’s what democracy is all about.”

Nonetheless, some have faulted the mayor for taking a back seat while the governor drove the process. They lament what they saw as his detachment from ground zero, his pragmatism regarding the memorial and his reluctance to use his bully pulpit until this year.

Others find fault with the Port Authority for viewing the scarred site as a source of revenue. Since 2001, the Port Authority has reported about $530 million in net income on the devastated trade center, mostly from Mr. Silverstein’s rent for the empty site, which has gone into the authority’s general operating budget. It also has reported a net income of $869 million from its insurance proceeds and Federal Emergency Management Agency money, which has been used to pay off the Port Authority’s debts.

It is Mr. Pataki, however, who receives the lion’s share of criticism, despite what many see as his heartfelt embrace of this project. He himself said that he had no regrets. The important thing, he said, is that ideas have finally become “shovels in the ground.”

“This is not about meeting any particular timeline,” he said in a recent interview. “This is not about 2005 or 2006 or 2008 or 2010. We want it to proceed as quickly as it can be done consistent with, 50 years from now, people saying, ‘They didn’t do it in a hurry, they did it right.’ ”

But dozens of people interviewed for this article, including some of the governor’s allies, described his leadership as erratic, risk-averse and lacking vision.

“Governor Pataki had great intentions, but if this is a great project, it will be despite and not because of him,” said Nina Libeskind, whose husband and business partner Daniel’s master plan was selected by Mr. Pataki. “Personally, he has been very kind to us. But professionally, he has lacked follow-through. Every once in a while, he would pop up, like the spike of an irregular heartbeat, and then he’d be gone again.”


At 75, Larry Silverstein is a preternaturally zippy man who has been cast in an unlikely starring role at the end of a successful but largely uncelebrated career in real estate. Given that he signed a 99-year commercial lease on the World Trade Center site just six weeks before the Sept. 11 attack, it is a fluke, really, that he has ended up at the heart of this drama. But he is a genuine New York character, and so he very much fits in this genuine New York story.

Now a chauffeur-driven, cufflink-wearing resident of Park Avenue, Mr. Silverstein spent his earliest years on the top floor of a Bedford-Stuyvesant walkup, “not a very commodious nor sweet-smelling place.” The son of Eastern European immigrants, Mr. Silverstein is a classic self-made man whose very way of talking — crisp diction on the one hand, earthy phraseology on the other — carries hints of both old-school rhetoric classes and Depression-era street life.

“You couldn’t make Larry up,” said Roland W. Betts, a founder and chairman of Chelsea Piers and a former development corporation director. “He should have hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ twice by now, playing himself.”

Thirty-eight stories above ground zero, Mr. Silverstein, a lanky man whose head seems to sit directly on his shoulders, cannot help but pause at the floor-to-ceiling windows and look down. It does give him a headache, though, he said one morning last spring, as he pushed away from the view.

Mr. Silverstein, dapper in a pink silk tie with blue polka dots, was in the middle of a speed-walking tour of the sprawling office of Silverstein Properties in the newly opened and otherwise empty 7 World Trade Center. It is a glass-skinned, 52-story tower abutting ground zero that he erected “without government interference.”

After signing off to his secretary through a window that he closes by remote control — “Nifty, ain’t it?” — Mr. Silverstein began bounding through the hallways, distributing salutations like air kisses: “Good morning, good morning. Mo, still of sound mind? Hey, Ed. Hey, Shari. How are you this morning? Hey, Steve. Hey, Roz. Hey, Cliff. Hey, Cath, how are you, honey?”

It was the morning after a “massive” party for his 75th birthday and his 50th wedding anniversary. He was feeling “dandy,” he said, as he skidded to a stop before a painting.

An oil of no great subtlety, the painting depicted a sailboat tossing in a rough sea. Mr. Silverstein said he had bought it at a Christie’s auction because he saw it as a metaphor for his entanglement with insurers and government at ground zero.

“Look at that ship,” Mr. Silverstein said. “It’s coming through these mountainous seas obviously having weathered, because of its tattered sails, a massive storm, right? There are storm clouds overhead. Yet you can see in the distance that the sun is beginning to come through, the sky is beginning to clear and the ship is going to make it.”


The World Trade Center was born through a marriage of public and private interests, primarily those of David Rockefeller, whose Chase Manhattan Bank opened new headquarters in a declining Lower Manhattan in 1960, and Austin J. Tobin, the powerful Port Authority director, who saw an opportunity for profitable expansion.

Together they created a gigantic office and retail complex financed by government bonds. The Port Authority shut down a vibrant electronics district and eliminated city streets to form the superblock on which the World Trade Center rose. This gave the authority a large chunk of Lower Manhattan, which frustrated the city’s mayors from that point through the ground zero reconstruction effort.

When it was dedicated in 1973, the World Trade Center was not welcomed. Architecture critics derided its monumentalism. New Yorkers did not warm easily to the monolithic austerity of the twin towers or the barren sweep of the plaza. For many years, the project was a financial burden on the Port Authority.

By the late 1990’s, however, the trade center was renovated, upgraded and nearly fully occupied, and the Port Authority made the long-debated move to get out of the commercial real estate business and focus on the region’s transportation. While the World Trade Center had never obtained the luster of a premier address, many developers coveted it and none more than Mr. Silverstein, who owned the original 7 World Trade, which sat in the shadow of the twin towers.

When Port Authority officials asked him if he would be interested in submitting a bid for the lease on the trade center, his response, he said, was “affirmative without hesitation.”

“The trade center was perceived by many as the brass ring,” he said. “Given an opportunity to acquire it, how does anybody who has been in this business for 50 years not salivate at the thought?”

Given the trajectory of his life, it made perfect sense that Mr. Silverstein, at retirement age, would leap for this particular brass ring.

Mr. Silverstein first got into the real estate business by joining his father, Harry, a classical pianist who made a paltry living as a leasing broker of loft space in SoHo, which was then known more prosaically as the rags, woolens and remnants district. Larry Silverstein quickly grew dissatisfied, telling his father: “Dad, we’re starving to death as brokers. The people really making the money are owners.”

Harry Silverstein, according to his son, answered: “We have nothing. How do you buy a building with nothing?”

And that was the question that propelled Mr. Silverstein on the path toward the World Trade Center. Mr. Silverstein said he found inspiration in “a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Wien and a gentleman by the name of Harry Helmsley,” pioneer real estate syndicators who eventually gathered several thousand investors to buy the Empire State Building. Putting together his own first small syndicate to buy a loft building in 1957, Mr. Silverstein established the business model for future transactions, including, one day, the purchase of the World Trade Center lease.

Gradually, Mr. Silverstein made himself into a player in the Manhattan real estate world, securing himself especially in the downtown firmament. Seven World Trade Center, which opened in 1987, was the first office building that he actually built.

Way back then, Mr. Silverstein gave the Port Authority an early taste of his exacting bargaining style, prevailing in his quest to double the square footage of 7 World Trade.

He also gave New York a taste of his tolerance for bottom-line aesthetics. Mr. Silverstein asked his architects “for the most inexpensive box I could build” because he had no tenants lined up. Later, he would refer to 7 World Trade as “the ugliest building in New York City,” according to David M. Childs, the architect who designed its replacement after Sept. 11.

In January 2001, a week before the final bids on the World Trade Center were due, Mr. Silverstein attended a real estate dinner at Le Cirque. The room buzzed with speculation about who would bid what on the trade center. At the end of the evening, he bundled up for a leisurely walk home.

When he crossed 57th Street at Madison Avenue, a car slammed into him, sending him “sailing in an easterly direction eight feet closer to the hospital,” he said. His pelvis was smashed in a dozen places, and he spent the next three days in a morphine haze. On Jan. 28, 2001, Mr. Silverstein stuttered into consciousness and realized that the bids were due imminently.

“Right away, I called the doctor and I said, ‘Kill the morphine. I got to think.’ ”

On the day that Mr. Silverstein was discharged from the hospital, he received a call that he had lost to Vornado Realty, the largest commercial landlord in Manhattan, by $50 million. “Really, it’s de minimis when you’re talking about that much money, what I call a rounding error,” he said.

But the Port Authority’s negotiations with Vornado broke down, and Mr. Silverstein got a second chance. To put together a deal, Mr. Silverstein, who then owned 5.5 million square feet of office space downtown, formed a partnership with Westfield America, a shopping center company. Over the course of negotiations, the Port Authority grew concerned about Mr. Silverstein’s financial viability and his ability to manage the gargantuan complex.

But Mr. Silverstein came up with $125 million in equity, including $14 million of his own money, and $563 million in financing from the GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corporation. He paid the Port Authority $491.3 million and pledged to pay more than $100 million a year in rent.

After Sept. 11, Mr. Silverstein was lambasted for underinsuring the trade center. But the Port Authority had carried only $1.5 billion in insurance coverage on the complex, which Mr. Silverstein more than doubled, as required by GMAC. As a result, Joseph J. Seymour, a former executive director of the Port Authority, noted, “Right before Sept. 11, we got additional insurance coverage because of Larry.”

On July 24, 2001, Mr. Silverstein took delivery of the World Trade Center. In a ceremony at the complex, he thrust a giant key chain into the air like a glittering trophy of his ascent from the rags district.


Every morning after the deal was finalized, Mr. Silverstein held breakfast meetings at Windows on the World. Early on Sept. 11, his wife, Klara, reminded him that he had an appointment with his dermatologist. He tried to wriggle out of it, he said, but Mrs. Silverstein insisted.

By the next day, Mr. Silverstein, whose own company had lost four employees, was grappling with how he should confront the tragedy. In a meeting with Howard J. Rubenstein, his public relations adviser, it was decided that “our message needs to reflect the national shock, anger and ultimate defiance against terrorism” while refraining from any suggestion “that the financial markets and the lawyers may ultimately dictate what we do on the property,” according to the notes of the meeting.

On Sept. 13, Mr. Silverstein contacted Herbert M. Wachtell, a fierce litigator and a friend since high school. Mr. Wachtell, he said, told him that he had obligations and rights: the obligation to continue paying $10 million in monthly rent and the right to rebuild. Mr. Wachtell would also lead Mr. Silverstein’s court battles seeking to double his insurance benefits, claiming that each plane constituted a separate “occurrence,” each reimbursable for $3.55 billion.

Mr. Silverstein proclaimed that he would spend the next five years of his life rebuilding ground zero, although he did not propose precise replicas of the twin towers, as others did. Mr. Childs, the architect, who had been hired two weeks before the attack to upgrade the World Trade Center, said that Mr. Silverstein came to feel that the hand of fate had tapped him on the shoulder.

“I think he felt that there was some reason he was there,” Mr. Childs said, “that he must have been destined to take this on.”


A few weeks after Sept. 11, Monica Iken was trying to wrap her arms around the idea that her husband, Michael, a bond trader, had gone to work one morning and would never return home. Ms. Iken, who was then 31 and looking forward to starting a family, had been listening numbly to radio and television reports, but the early chatter about rebuilding the trade center startled her into feeling.

She burst out of her bedroom. “They’re going to build over dead people,” she told the relatives gathered to keep her company. “I can’t let that happen. I have to go on a mission.”

Ms. Iken’s family treated her pronouncement as if she were unhinged by grief, she recalled. “They said, ‘You’ve just lost your husband. You don’t know what you’re saying. What do you mean, a mission? Who are you to do that?’ ”

That was a question that all the family advocates would face at one time, but like Ms. Iken, they were driven to speak out.

Tall and willowy, Ms. Iken found herself in front of television cameras right after Sept. 11, when she was waiting outside a hospital to learn if her husband was a John Doe inside. Over the years, people would take potshots at her for what they saw as glorying in the spotlight. One Lower Manhattan community advocate told a reporter that Ms. Iken used to attend public meetings with a makeup artist, which Ms. Iken, sighing, denied.

Ms. Iken said that she only availed herself of the spotlight that found her first. In those first few months, Ms. Iken, unaware of the real estate complexities that would become paramount, began pushing the idea that all 16 acres should be preserved as a memorial. The idea caught on, and, thrilling her, Rudolph W. Giuliani embraced it in his farewell mayoral address in December 2001.

“I really believe that we shouldn’t think about the site out there, right beyond us, as a site for economic development,” Mr. Giuliani said. “We really have to be able to do with it what they did with Normandy or Valley Forge or Bunker Hill or Gettysburg. We have to be able to create something here that enshrines this forever.”

Publicly, a debate over possibilities for the 16 open acres raged well into 2002.

But the most pivotal conversation over ground zero’s future took place in late 2001, behind the Port Authority’s closed doors, when officials briefly entertained and then, fearing lengthy, costly litigation, rejected the idea of forcing out Mr. Silverstein.

“No matter who talked about, ‘Let’s get rid of Larry,’ it was not something that could be done unless he was a willing participant or did not meet his contractual obligations,” said Kenneth J. Ringler Jr., the authority’s current executive director.

This decision vested a private businessman with extraordinary influence over the reconstruction effort and yet, because it is essentially a public project, tied his hands at the same time. It is a decision that has been second-guessed so often it is like a parlor game in certain Manhattan circles.

“They could have gotten Larry out,” Mr. Betts said. It would have meant writing a check, Mr. Zuccotti said, but it could have been done. Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, said the mayor and the governor “could have gotten in a room with Larry Silverstein and said, ‘You’re out of here.’ ”

But Mr. Yaro said the Port Authority had multiple motivations for retaining the Silverstein lease. “They saw it as their key to hanging on to the site,” he said. “They were afraid of losing control to the city or the state.”

Further, the Port Authority was counting on Mr. Silverstein’s aggressive pursuit of insurance proceeds as well as the more than $100 million a year in rent that the Port Authority depended on to keep its overall operation flush.

“I don’t think that should shock anybody,” Mr. Ringler said. “The World Trade Center was a moneymaker for this agency so that this agency, who pools its resources, can do all the other things we have to do.”

The World Trade Center site has been an even better moneymaker since Sept. 11, however, primarily because the attack coincided with the sale of the lease to Mr. Silverstein. While the Port Authority reported an average annual net income of $22 million on the complex in the five years before Sept. 11, it reported an average annual net income of $106 million on the empty site in the five years after.

“When you look at how much more profit we made,” Anthony R. Coscia, the authority’s chairman, said, “all it represents is monetizing an asset we sold before Sept. 11,” that is, turning the buildings into cash.

Although the public would not realize it for some time, there was little room for any wholesale reimagining of the World Trade Center site once the Port Authority made the decision to respect Mr. Silverstein’s lease.

“You had this very quiet, very rapid elimination of the idea that it could be something other than 10 million square feet of office space plus a decorative necklace of ancillary institutions,” said Michael Sorkin, director of the graduate urban design program at City College of New York.

But that decision did not translate into quick action. The Port Authority, a fiercely independent entity unaccustomed to much public review, was pushed temporarily to the side as Governor Pataki and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a new state entity, took over planning for the site.

That fall, it was anticipated that Mark Green, the Democratic candidate, would be elected mayor in November, and Mr. Giuliani assented to the creation of a state-run development corporation to oversee the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.


When Governor Pataki first phoned him, John Whitehead assumed that he was calling to solicit a campaign contribution. Mr. Whitehead, then 79, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and a former deputy secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, is an old-school establishment Republican, genteel, decorous and a reliable donor.

But Mr. Pataki was calling instead to ask Mr. Whitehead to serve as chairman of the development corporation, which Mr. Whitehead, keenly aware of his age and his lack of experience in architecture, construction and urban planning, initially considered declining but then accepted.

By the time of the City Hall press conference announcing Mr. Whitehead’s appointment, Mr. Bloomberg had won the election, inheriting a development corporation that he considered an additional layer of bureaucracy. Still, Mr. Bloomberg stood beside Mr. Pataki and Mr. Giuliani and embraced the selection of Mr. Whitehead, a fellow Harvard Business School alumnus and, Mr. Whitehead noted in an interview, a fellow Eagle Scout, too.

At the end of that press conference, Mr. Whitehead began having second thoughts. “The governor and the mayor — the two mayors — headed to their limousines clapping each other on their back,” he said. “I hailed a cab, sat alone in the back seat and thought it was one of the lowest points in my life. I didn’t know what to do next. I had no money, no staff, no office, no program.

“Luckily,” he continued, “the good Congress soon put $2.7 billion in the bank for us to spend.”

Shortly before Christmas, Mr. Whitehead bumped into Thomas S. Johnson at a holiday cocktail party at the home of Robin Chandler Duke, a leading socialite, former ambassador and champion of reproductive rights. It was the first social engagement that Mr. Johnson had attended since his 26-year-old son, Scott M. Johnson, a securities analyst, was killed on Sept. 11.

By that time, Mr. Johnson, then the chief executive of GreenPoint Bank, had returned to work but he was not “operating on all cylinders,” he said in an interview. He ached for his son, whom he describes, after a long pause, as: “No. 1, never had an unkind moment in his life, No. 2, enthusiastic about his life and positive, and No. 3, great-looking.”

At the party, Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Whitehead what the development corporation was going to do with ground zero. Mr. Whitehead told him, “We’re going to cover it over, make a temporary memorial and think about a permanent memorial way down the road,” Mr. Johnson said.


The idea that Mr. Whitehead mentioned never really left the inner sanctum of the Port Authority.

The Port Authority lost 84 of its own employees on Sept. 11, including its executive director, Neil D. Levin. Port officials pride themselves on the work ethic that kept employees on the job day and night in the weeks and months that followed. It was their way of coping.

Christopher O. Ward’s job was to direct strategic planning and external affairs at the Port Authority. He said he feared that some might want to exclude the authority from the redevelopment of ground zero, thinking, “They’re too big and lumbering and they’ll waste money.”

“I thought we needed to do something dramatic to put the port in a good place,” Mr. Ward said.

Mr. Ward’s idea, developed with other officials and an outside consultant, was to create an interim memorial.

Because ground zero itself would be a recovery and construction site for a long time, the Port Authority would create a bare-bones exhibition space, like the temporary Museum of Modern Art in Queens, on the abandoned piers of the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. There, artifacts from the World Trade Center — a crushed police car, a twisted antenna, a steel beam with firefighters’ messages — could be displayed.

The public would get a quick way to connect with one another and with the enormity of Sept. 11, and the interim memorial would alleviate time pressure on the difficult planning process for a permanent memorial. Or so it was thought.

At a December 2001 meeting, Mr. Ward, who went on to become Mr. Bloomberg’s commissioner of environmental protection, presented the idea to Port Authority commissioners. He told them that the temporary memorial would take seven months to put in place, and he also recommended draping the pit to make it more palatable.

Mr. Ward said he thought that the governor’s office squelched the plan, making it clear that all memorial planning would emanate directly from there. Mr. Gargano, the governor’s adviser, who is also a Port Authority commissioner, said that he did not remember the idea at all.

Whatever happened to that evanescent concept, the artifacts themselves were eventually transported to Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport, where they have been off limits to the public ever since.


In the spring of 2002, John P. Cahill, the governor’s chief of staff, asked Thomas Johnson to serve on the board of the development corporation. At first, the board did not include a single family member, making families feel then, as many times afterward, that the memorial would come second to economic reconstruction.

Mr. Johnson requested a meeting with the governor first. In the governor’s Midtown office, Mr. Johnson said, he told Mr. Pataki that he would not be able to represent solely “the narrow interests of the family survivors — important as they are.” His allegiance, he said, would have to be to the “whole of the institution and all of its constituencies.”

Mr. Pataki accepted this, having chosen a banker and not, say, a firefighter’s widow, for a reason.

Still, the suspenders-wearing Mr. Johnson, now 65, did end up playing what he called the “very, very painful and very, very difficult” role of liaison to the families, who alternately resented him for being an insider and appreciated him for standing up to political authorities.

He had a fine line to walk. Some family members believed from the start that government officials were more comfortable with those relatives who were part of the elite establishment, like Mr. Johnson; Paula Grant Berry, a former publishing executive who served on the memorial design jury; and Christine A. Ferer, a business owner, widow of Mr. Levin, the Port Authority’s executive director, and Mr. Bloomberg’s liaison to the families (who, some time ago, had dated the mayor).

“I think there was an element of elitism towards the families that was quite palpable,” said Gretchen Dykstra, former president of the memorial foundation, “and also a naïveté on the part of the families.”

Sally Regenhard, a former nursing home administrator married to a retired New York City detective sergeant, said she gradually felt disregarded, as did others who served on the development corporation’s family advisory council. “Oh, please,” she said. “They say they are inclusionary. And they take everyone’s opinion, that’s true. But then they put it in the circular file.”

On the very day that Ms. Regenhard watched the towers burning from her Bronx apartment, even before she knew that her 28-year-old son, Christian, a probationary firefighter, was at risk, she experienced her first shudder of outrage, she said.

A couple of months later, during Christian’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, she did not denounce the authorities, as she had intended, for how the emergency communications and building safety systems had failed her son. A onetime Roman Catholic schoolgirl, she felt intimidated by the scarlet-robed Cardinal Edward M. Egan, she said.

But several months later, Ms. Regenhard, a compact woman with blond bangs, stood at the edge of City Hall Park in the pouring rain and gave her first press conference. She announced the formation of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign to push, among other things, for safety issues to be paramount in the rebuilding of ground zero.

“I was a different person before 9/11,” said Ms. Regenhard, who wears a locket with Christian’s picture and sometimes carries his ponytail, which he cut off before entering the Fire Academy, in a velvet pouch. “I tried to speak out, let’s say in Co-op City, where I lived. But now — I’m fueled by adrenaline, outrage and love for my son and that has made me a bigger pain in the ass than I ever was before.”

There is a constellation of family members who have been transformed by loss and anger into advocates. Over time, they have formed organizations with different missions, from safety concerns to how the victims’ names should be displayed on the memorial.

And, over time, they have come to be seen by some community, business and redevelopment leaders as impediments to progress. Some view the advocates as self-appointed and unrepresentative; others, in private conversations, describe them heatedly as radical or loopy or desperate for attention.

“My favorite description of the families is: They haven’t moved on,” said Ms. Lutnick of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which assists the families of the financial service firm’s 658 employees who were killed, including her younger brother, Gary. “They also say that we are incapable of being satisfied, that all we want is for everyone else to feel as bad as we do, that we’re crazy.”

“It’s very dismissive,” she said, “and it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Mr. Pataki said that it was “wrong to generically lump thousands of people together and give them a title” as family members. There is no one way that family members think and feel, he said, and he has worked to balance their concerns.

“I don’t expect everybody to stand and cheer,” Mr. Pataki said. “All those family members who continually do nothing but bash me — when I see them, I give them a hug, because I appreciate their sense of loss.”

Yet many involved in the reconstruction effort say that Mr. Pataki empowered the family advocates and also gave them veto power.

They point to one of Mr. Pataki’s first crucial decisions, announced to an ovation at a memorial service in June 2002: that nothing would be built on the twin towers’ footprints, where so many victims’ remains were found.

Development officials discovered Mr. Pataki’s commitment in the morning newspapers the next day. Since that commitment carved nearly five acres out of the site for a memorial, including the underground area that was going to be used for parking, roadways and mechanical components, they were startled that such a fundamental decision had been made without consultation.

Mr. Bloomberg said that declaring the footprints inviolable drove the process from that point forward, although he said he was not sure whether it was Mr. Pataki or Mr. Giuliani, in earlier remarks, who made the decision.

“Once you say that, you’ve set the scale of the memorial, you’ve set where the other buildings on the site will be, and you’ve set the cost,” Mr. Bloomberg said.


In a conference room overlooking the Hudson River, Mr. Betts, a tall, barrel-chested businessman wearing a blue vest with the Chelsea Piers logo, recalled the way that his sports complex was rapidly transformed on Sept. 11 into a triage center.

“Right from that day I remember telling Tom that I wanted to get involved in this thing,” Mr. Betts said, referring to his partner, Tom A. Bernstein.

Mr. Betts, a development corporation board member, asked its chairman, Mr. Whitehead, “to put me in charge of ground zero.” It was not long before Mr. Betts got a taste of just how difficult it would be to oversee a public project involving clashing government entities, a private developer and a grieving public.

“With 20/20 hindsight, we never should have moved forward with so many conflicting stakes on this piece of real estate,” he said. “Those people bombed the most complicated site in the state. If they had chosen the Empire State Building, there would have been no Port Authority, no Larry Silverstein. It seemed like everybody had a vested interest in ground zero.”

It took more than a year to settle on a master plan. In early 2002, the Port Authority and the development corporation began the process by seeking bids from architects. And that is when it came to light that the government was treating Mr. Silverstein’s lease as sacrosanct, that it wanted to replace the 10 million square feet of office space that was lost.

“This was a disastrous decision, and no one could believe it,” said Mr. Yaro of the Regional Plan Association.

A Manhattan architectural firm was awarded the contract and a challenge: to come up with six alternative land-use plans.

When the plans were unveiled in July 2002, critics dismissed them as uninspired. The public’s response, delivered at a meeting, called “Listening to the City,” that drew thousands to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, amounted to a Bronx cheer. What people especially condemned was the site’s density, particularly the scale of the commercial square footage.

“Somebody said, ‘It looks like Albany,’ ” Mr. Betts said. “That was the killer line.”

In the name of democracy, the development corporation discarded the six plans and embarked on a worldwide search for a more visionary master planner.


From the start, Mr. Bloomberg’s advisers had been fretting over the city’s limited control of the redevelopment. Like many New Yorkers at “Listening to the City,” Mayor Bloomberg disagreed with an approach that made significant office space so central.

“Nobody was being honest about Lower Manhattan,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development. “The truth is, Lower Manhattan before 9/11 had a growing residential population, but it had been losing worker population since 1970. By and large, the problems of Lower Manhattan were swept under the rug in the wake of 9/11 by kind of this nostalgia for the World Trade Center and the tremendous emotion that existed.”

One night in mid-2002, at a moment of simultaneous frustration about ground zero and about negotiations over the renewal of the Port Authority’s leases on the city’s airports, Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Doctoroff and Roy Bahat, a deputy to Mr. Doctoroff, sat in the garden behind City Hall looking at spreadsheets.

Flipping back and forth between the two sets of numbers, Mr. Bahat had an epiphany. The city was looking to collect from the Port Authority about $100 million in annual rent on the airports, and the Port Authority was looking to collect from Mr. Silverstein about $100 million in annual rent on the World Trade Center.

“I think it was even Roy who kind of, late one night, said, ‘Why not just trade?’ ” Mr. Doctoroff said. “We would have gotten the World Trade Center site plus cash,” and the Port Authority would have gotten the airports.

The idea was broached.

The city suggested that the World Trade Center site was worth $4.4 billion to $5.5 billion and the airports $7 billion to $9 billion, Port Authority officials said — figures the authority questioned.

But Mr. Doctoroff said that the numbers could have worked out, and that the swap would have served ground zero well. “I’m not sure at the end of the day that it would been the best deal financially for the city, but the hope was that having a single government entity in charge” would have been better, he said.

City officials said that the governor was not interested, preferring to retain control of the site. Aides to the governor, however, said they never took the idea seriously. Mayor Bloomberg never even called Governor Pataki to discuss it, they said. “Come on, of course it wasn’t real,” Mr. Gargano said. “What were we going to do, abandon the World Trade Center?”

Referring indirectly to the mayor’s interest in developing the Far West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Gargano said, “There was speculation that some didn’t want the rebuilding of ground zero because they thought there was a better real estate market elsewhere.”

After the swap idea dissolved, city officials seemed to disengage from ground zero. Mr. Bloomberg said that they focused their attention on what they did control, the rest of Lower Manhattan. More visibly, he pursued unsuccessful quests to build a West Side football stadium for the Jets and to secure the 2012 Olympics. It was, many community, business and civic leaders said, as if the mayor and the governor had made a pact to divide up Manhattan.

Such an understanding, Mr. Doctoroff said, never existed, even tacitly. “There never was a quid pro quo,” he said.


The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s office overlooks ground zero. The blinds in its conference room are often tightly drawn, blotting out the view. On the fall day in 2002 that the seven finalist teams for master planner gathered there, though, they stood at the picture windows and gazed down at the stillness of the site.

“Somebody from the Port said, ‘Does anybody want to go down?’ ” Daniel Libeskind, known then as the architect who had designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin, recalled. “There was complete silence. I said, ‘I want to.’ It was miserable rain. We borrowed galoshes and bought cheap umbrellas. And as we descended down that huge ramp, really, my view of the world changed.”

Deep down at the bedrock level, Mr. Libeskind said, he felt both the “enormity of the loss” and the unadorned power of the pit itself. After placing his hands on the rough face of the concrete slurry wall, he turned to his wife and said, “Call Berlin. Drop everything we’re doing. I have a complete vision of what should be.”

Mr. Libeskind, 60, whose bubbly, pixyish demeanor contrasts almost comically with his severe black clothing and rectangular eyeglasses, has a talent for packaging his own stories and ideas. Call it salesmanship or, as Mr. Libeskind does, “rhetoric, one of the arts that Aristotle and the Greeks thought fundamental.” That fall, when Mr. Libeskind, who immigrated to the United States as a child, presented his ideas to development officials, it made an impression.

“When that magical little guy with the black pants, black shoes, black socks, black belt, black shirt and black glasses stood up and talked about his approach, everybody was emotionally moved,” said Mr. Johnson, who served on Mr. Betts’s site committee. “When he talked about coming on a boat to America, seeing the Statue of Liberty, going down to ground zero — I don’t know anybody there that didn’t start out thinking that his plan would be the very best.”

But that thinking changed in early 2003 when it came down to a bake-off between two finalists. It was Mr. Libeskind, an architectural theorist who had seen his first building built only four years earlier, versus the Think design team, which included the Argentine-born architect Rafael Viñoly and Frederic Schwartz of New York.

Think’s design centered on two latticework structures that rose like Eiffel Towers above the footprints of the twin towers. Mr. Libeskind’s “Memory Foundations” featured a memorial site sinking 70 feet down to bedrock with the slurry wall exposed. That hollow would be surrounded by office towers that spiraled progressively higher, with the tallest, at 1,776 feet, reaching up into the sky to echo the Statue of Liberty.

The competition was intense and mean-spirited. The Think designers rolled their eyes at the American flag lapel pin that Mr. Libeskind, a naturalized American living in Berlin, took to wearing and referred to Mr. Libeskind’s design as a death pit. Mr. Libeskind described the design team’s name as disturbingly Orwellian and the Think towers as skeletons — a perception that Mr. Pataki came to share.

Some family groups had embraced Mr. Libeskind’s plan because it treated bedrock as sacrosanct. Mr. Betts’s committee, however, came to favor the Think lattice towers, which members saw as a vertical memorial. “I thought that Libeskind’s was down in a hole and depressing while the Viñoly was soaring and uplifting,” Mr. Betts said.

The tower would have been built segment by segment, like an Erector Set. “For the public, it would have been an event, like a rising phoenix,” Mr. Betts said, growing animated and then wistful.

The day before the two models were to be presented to Mr. Pataki and Mr. Bloomberg, a site committee member told The New York Times that it had chosen the Think design and did not expect to be overruled.

Reading the newspaper the following morning, Nina Libeskind, who grew up in a family of Canadian politicians, reached for the telephone. She called Edward W. Hayes, the Libeskinds’ friend and lawyer who also happened to be Mr. Pataki’s buddy since law school (and the model for Tommy Killian, the defense lawyer in Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities”).

Mr. Hayes had accompanied the governor when he toured an exhibition of the models, giving Mr. Pataki a picture of Mr. Libeskind. The photograph, which showed a young Mr. Libeskind posing before a haystack, echoed a similar photograph of the governor as a child (the haystack being a favorite backdrop of Eastern European immigrants), according to Mr. Libeskind.

After Mrs. Libeskind called him, Mr. Hayes phoned the governor and told him to “do whatever you think is right” for a project that would define his legacy.

The governor arrived at the development corporation’s office and met with Mr. Betts’s committee, knowing that one member had leaked its choice. “Pataki was really, really irked at us,” Mr. Betts said. “It was less substantive than, ‘Who do you guys think you are? I’m the governor. I make the decisions.’ We did not really have a debate. I made the point that the L.M.D.C. expected to make certain decisions. But instead the decision was crammed down our throats.”

Mr. Pataki overruled Mr. Betts’s site committee. To this day, committee members regret the governor’s intervention. Some of them say that the Think towers would be built by now, lighted for this fifth anniversary like the beacon that the Freedom Tower has yet to become.

At a celebration after the governor, with the mayor’s assent, made his decision, Mr. Hayes told Mr. Libeskind, “The governor said that it was the haystack that did it in the end.”


Right before Mr. Libeskind was chosen, Mr. Silverstein sent Mr. Whitehead a cautionary letter on his World Trade Center Properties stationery.

“Our group has the right to select the architect responsible for preparing rebuilding plans,” Mr. Silverstein wrote. Right after Sept. 11, in fact, Mr. Silverstein had chosen David Childs, turning to him and saying, “You can be the new Yamasaki!” (He referred to Minoru Yamasaki, architect for the original World Trade Center.)

Mr. Libeskind would never possess absolute authority as master planner. Even before his plan was selected, he was made to raise the sunken memorial from bedrock to 30 feet below street level for structural reasons. His ability to absorb challenges was tested repeatedly.

But Mr. Silverstein, as he saw it, was a particular challenge. The feeling was mutual.

In some ways, Mr. Silverstein and Mr. Libeskind have a good deal in common. They are both Jews of Eastern European descent raised in working-class immigrant homes in New York City. They were both classically trained musicians, Mr. Libeskind as an accordionist, Mr. Silverstein as a pianist and drummer. They both met their wives at camps in the Catskills. They are both remarkably optimistic by nature.

But to Mr. Silverstein, Mr. Libeskind was an egghead artiste, and to Mr. Libeskind, Mr. Silverstein was a profit-driven developer.

A few days after Mr. Libeskind was “anointed,” as Mr. Silverstein put it, the men got together. In Mr. Silverstein’s conference room, Nina Libeskind made it clear that her husband would be designing the 1776 building, as it was then known.

“I looked at her in absolute shock and said, ‘But he’s never designed a high-rise in his life,’ ” Mr. Silverstein recalled. “I said, ‘Tell me something. If you were needing neurosurgery, would you go to a general practitioner who has never done any kind of operating in his life?’ She said, ‘Daniel is a quick learner.’ ”

Mr. Silverstein started picking apart Mr. Libeskind’s master plan. He objected first to the location of the Freedom Tower at the northwest corner of the site, where it would be farthest from the transportation hub and, complicating construction, above the train tracks.

But Mr. Silverstein lost that battle, and the next: “I said to Larry,” Mr. Childs recalled, “ ‘If the governor won’t move the tower, ask him if he would build it last. Then you’ll have more of a market, the train station will be done and the slurry wall fixed.’ But the governor said: ‘No. I want to build it first. I want to build it there. And I want to build it quickly.’ ”

And the governor wanted Mr. Childs, a corporate architect, to collaborate with Mr. Libeskind, an academic architect about a foot shorter, whom Mr. Childs addressed with the diminutive Danny. Mr. Libeskind describes it as a forced marriage — in which he reluctantly agreed to play the role of subservient spouse.

As Mr. Childs put it, “I said, ‘Danny, if we have a million disagreements, I get 51 percent of the vote on each one.’ And he said, ‘Yes, I understand.’ ”

The two architects met weekly in the office of Mr. Childs’s Wall Street firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which has developed a specialty in super-tall buildings. Mr. Childs was elaborating on the design of what he called a torqued building and Mr. Libeskind saw as a “giant corkscrew with a bird on top.” Mr. Libeskind still believed strongly in his original asymmetrical tower with a spire mirroring the Statue of Liberty’s arm. But Mr. Childs thought, “God doesn’t like eccentric loads. That’s why he makes trees tapered and they don’t have a big branch sticking off the top.”

Public officials mediated. As unveiled at the very end of 2003, the Freedom Tower, with a twisted torso and off-center antenna, was a bartered design. At the unveiling, the politicians and architects joined hands, but neither that Kumbaya moment nor the design itself would last.


After his experience with Mr. Pataki’s selection of Mr. Libeskind, Mr. Johnson set out to organize a memorial design competition that the governor “couldn’t mess with.”

“I worked really hard, with others, to set up a process that would result in a truly independent jury,” he said.

The jury of 13 included representatives of the governor and the mayor, one family member and professionals from the art and architecture world, including Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Paula Grant Berry, the family representative, said she entered hesitantly into what became an all-consuming experience. “I felt that the jury was happening at the wrong time,” she said. “How can you memorialize something when you are still in it? I wondered what was driving the haste. Why not stop, build a temporary park, put in the PATH station and take a breath?”

Like the other jurors, Ms. Berry did not like the way that Mr. Libeskind had prescribed a large sunken memorial, “a gigantic bomb crater,” as James E. Young, a scholar of Judaic and Near Eastern studies who has written books on memorials, put it. “We wanted to bring it to grade, to stitch the site back into downtown and not have a giant hole that people had to walk around.”

In April 2003, the development corporation announced an international competition, soliciting “creative and exceptional” design concepts to honor the loss of life on Sept. 11, 2001, and on Feb. 26, 1993, when six people were killed in a bombing attack on the World Trade Center.

At the last minute, the jury inserted into the design guidelines a quiet invitation to ignore Mr. Libeskind’s master plan, which many designers were reluctant to do.

Michael Arad, an assistant architect for the New York City Housing Authority, was not.

Unlike the voluble Mr. Libeskind, Mr. Arad speaks softly and methodically.

Try to interrupt him with a question and he says, “I’ll get to that.” He does not like to be diverted, which made it difficult for him during the fractious reconstruction process, where no path was ever a straight one.

Mr. Arad, now 37, a slim, pale man with rectangular glasses and an intense gaze, had started sketching ideas for a memorial about a year after the attack. Because of a Sept. 11-related delay in the renewal of his work visa, Mr. Arad, the son of an Israeli diplomat who grew up partly in the United States, found himself on leave from an architectural firm, with time to ponder. He imagined two voids in the Hudson River; water would flow into them but they would never fill up. Then he built a model, with a desktop fountain from Bed Bath and Beyond, carried it to his rooftop, photographed it and said to himself, “O.K., now what?”

When the memorial competition was announced, Mr. Arad dusted off his model and contemplated creating the voids on the World Trade Center site itself. He made an early decision to discard important aspects of the master plan, like the sunken plaza and the cultural buildings. He thought Mr. Libeskind had all but designed a memorial himself, relegating prospective designers to “selecting fabric swatches.”

In June 2003, Mr. Arad submitted “Reflecting Absence,” which carved out an enormous, barren street-level plaza featuring two square depressions 30 feet deep. At the bottom of each depression sat a reflecting pool fed by sheets of water. Each pool was broken by another square, with water falling again into a second void, and the victims’ names engraved on parapets around the pools’ edges. Visitors could either gaze down into the pools or descend into what Mr. Arad envisioned as a cool, dim, contemplative space vital to the experience.


A few months later, in August 2003, the 13 members of the World Trade Center memorial design jury sat cloistered in a bland meeting room.

Ahead of them was a daunting task. They had received 5,201 designs submitted, as required, on 30- by-40-inch poster boards, as if they were middle school science projects. And no single design had jumped out at them.

That day, they were to receive first Governor Pataki, then Mayor Bloomberg and finally Mr. Giuliani. It was a formality, as the jurors saw it. They had been assured that their decision-making was to be free from political interference.

And yet what they heard from the politicians that day, particularly Mr. Bloomberg, presaged the troubles that lay ahead.

While Governor Pataki essentially gave the jurors a pep talk, the mayor and the former mayor presented them with contrasting and irreconcilable visions of how best to honor the dead. They raised the issues of cost, of scale and of timing: was it too soon to make such a potentially divisive decision?

Most astonishingly, although this was almost two years into an arduous process of determining the fate of ground zero, it was clear that neither of the two mayors believed in the reconstruction program that an Albany-led process had established.

Mr. Giuliani encouraged them to consider the entire site “sacred ground,” making it clear that his views had remained consistent since he left office. He said of the memorial, “I think it should be big.”

Mr. Bloomberg said just the opposite: “Less is more.”

With his hands chopping the air, Mayor Bloomberg told the jurors that he thought they should build a school instead of a monument. “I always thought the best memorial for anybody is to build a better world in their memory,” he said. “I’m a believer in the future, not the past. I can’t do anything about the past.”

Mr. Bloomberg related that before the first anniversary, he had tried to call the families of about 400 uniformed workers killed on Sept. 11. Most were moving on with their lives, he said. “Then there were 15-odd families where the spouse, I think it was probably all women, they just kept crying and crying,’’ he said. “It’s not my business to say that to a woman, ‘Suck it up and get going,’ but that is the way I feel. You’ve got to look to the future.”

Mr. Bloomberg also revealed that he had specified in his will a desire to be buried in a plain pine box. “It’s not like I can’t afford a fancy coffin,” he told the jurors. “It’s just a waste.”

Adding that “there are too many things that are wrong with society that a dollar can fix,” Mr. Bloomberg spoke about famine, war and the preventability of deaths from diarrhea in the developing world. He wanted the jurors to think about the memorial project in a broader context, he said.

Vartan Gregorian, a juror and president of the Carnegie Corporation, told the mayor, “In fairness to us, this is the first time we’ve heard about cost.” But it wouldn’t be the last, for the estimated cost of the memorial would balloon to almost $1 billion, enough to pay for 20 schools.

Like the deliberations of the memorial jury, these frank conversations were private, but the development corporation had them videotaped for a documentary on the making of the memorial. The videotapes, with a State Supreme Court justice’s assent, have been closely guarded ever since. Denied the tapes officially, The New York Times was nonetheless able to view them.

The public may never have that opportunity. The documentary was abandoned.


When it came to selecting an architect to build the new PATH station, the Port Authority had no intention of following in the development corporation’s footsteps.

“We did not want an endless public process with 5,000 public submittals,” said Anthony Cracchiolo, who was in charge of capital projects for the authority. “We said, ‘Let’s do it the traditional way.’ ”

Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect, artist and engineer who had earned an international reputation for his bridges and transportation terminals, submitted a bid in partnership with two New York firms.

“You see,” Mr. Calatrava said in an interview, explaining his interest, “to make a statement of construction in a place that has suffered such a devastating destruction — you cannot be in a better place.”

In the summer of 2003, Mr. Calatrava’s partnership, which includes the STV Group and DMJM Harris, won a $155.6 million contract to design the PATH station.

(Several years later, Mr. Cracchiolo, who retired from the Port Authority with a $145,000 annual pension, went to work for STV. So did two other former Port executives involved with the PATH project, although the firm said that none of them are working on that terminal. )

Inspired by the idea of a child releasing a dove, Mr. Calatrava designed a soaring winged structure, with a roof that could open to the sky every Sept. 11.

Port Authority officials quickly found themselves enchanted by Mr. Calatrava’s considerable charm. “I have become very, very fond of Santiago,” said Mr. Ringler, the Port Authority’s executive director. “The guy’s a genius. But the first thing that hits you in the face — he gives you a hug.”

Mr. Calatrava’s business is based in Zurich and Valencia, Spain, but since 2002 he has lived part-time on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Unlike many other architects at ground zero, Mr. Calatrava has retained significant creative control, although he has faced both security issues and some minor cost concerns. He was asked to use polished granite instead of marble, for instance, but Port Authority officials have not wanted to tie the hands of a man they consider an artist.

“Our people call him the Da Vinci of our time,” said Mr. Seymour of the Port Authority.

After Sept. 11, Port Authority officials jumped at the opportunity to remake the antiquated transportation infrastructure of Lower Manhattan. Almost immediately, they decided that they would not only restore what was lost but also improve on it.

“The trade center had been attacked twice,” Mr. Cracchiolo said. “Our thinking at the time was we needed to make a statement. We wanted to create a Grand Central Terminal in Lower Manhattan. It could be a catalyst for development as Grand Central was in Midtown.”

Grand Central, however, was built by the Vanderbilts. The new terminal in Lower Manhattan will be built by the taxpayers.

The central hall in Mr. Calatrava’s station will be roughly as capacious as Grand Central’s main concourse. But while Grand Central has 45 train tracks, the PATH station will have 5. And while Grand Central serves 200,000 train commuters and 700,000 subway riders daily, the World Trade Center PATH station now serves 42,000.

The Port Authority anticipates the number of commuters doubling in a couple of decades, just as it anticipates the transportation hub — with its stores and store-lined underground corridors — evolving into a heavily trafficked crossroads.

New York’s leaders stand solidly behind the PATH project even if some gape at the price tag. “It’s the only part of the project that has not been controversial,” Carl Weisbrod, president of Trinity Real Estate, said. “It’s a lot of money to spend on a PATH station. But the Calatrava may well end up becoming the icon of the site.”

In trips to Washington after Sept. 11, New York officials made transportation projects a priority, persuading Congress to dedicate $4.55 billion of the ground zero money to them. That was a substantial chunk — almost a third — of the $15 billion in direct federal aid. (Another $5 billion came in the form of a tax incentive program.)

The two major transportation projects, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Fulton Street Transit Center and the Port Authority’s World Trade Center transportation hub, are nearly side by side. “It will be like having Grand Central and Penn Station a block apart,” Mr. Yaro of the Regional Plan Association said.

The M.T.A. project is budgeted at $847 million, and the port’s at $2.2 billion, with a $280 million reserve fund. (The Port Authority will contribute $300 million of its own money to the PATH complex.) Neither terminal adds capacity to its system.

As now estimated, the PATH complex — whose price tag includes underground passageways radiating from the terminal and the east foundation — costs roughly the same as the Freedom Tower. But it requires much less concrete and steel, chief ingredients that drive cost, according to construction estimates.

Where the Freedom Tower will need 190,000 cubic yards of concrete and 53,700 tons of steel, according to the estimate, the PATH complex will need less than half as much of those materials.

One reason for the disproportionate cost of the PATH project is that the government is spending more on “soft costs” than Silverstein Properties, which is building the Freedom Tower. For instance, the PATH complex’s administration, design and insurance costs will total about $620 million, or 28 percent of the project’s total, according to federal transportation documents. The same costs for the Freedom Tower will be about $290 million, or 14.5 percent of that project’s total, according to Silverstein Properties.

Port officials say the projects are not comparable. “Ours is a complex transportation project,’’ said John J. McCarthy, the agency’s public affairs director. “It’s very different than a stand-alone office building.’’

The new PATH terminal will replace the $323 million temporary PATH terminal built to replace the one destroyed on Sept. 11. That temporary station, an impressively rapid government construction project that seemed to herald a quick rebirth of the site, opened in the fall of 2003.


Late one night that same fall, Mr. Arad, after changing his newborn son’s diaper, got a cryptic e-mail message asking him to contact the development corporation. He thought, he said, that his $25 entry fee check had bounced, but learned instead that he was one of eight finalists for the memorial.

As the jury slogged through thousands of entries, it knew what it wanted.

“None of us were looking for a literal reference to the attack,” Professor Young said. “We weren’t interested in planes crashing into towers or flames. We were more disposed to an abstract, under-determined design.”

But finding what it wanted was not easy. All the finalists “needed a lot of help,” Mr. Young said. Mr. Arad was no exception.

Mr. Arad met with the jury at least three times, the first time talking with nervous rapidity and coming across as arrogant. After a subsequent presentation at Gracie Mansion, Mr. Arad was startled when the jurors broke into applause — all except Maya Lin, he said, who crinkled her nose. In the end, though, it was Ms. Lin who championed his design.

Yet the jurors challenged Mr. Arad on what they saw as the austerity of his memorial plaza. And, at that point, Mr. Arad said, “I tried to find a path between resistance and accommodation.”

He agreed to join with an older, more experienced professional, a landscape architect named Peter Walker, in a partnership that grew disharmonious as officials came to prefer dealing with Mr. Walker.

Over time, the memorial concept came to be seen as the seed of an idea rather than as a design itself. Even before he was selected, Mr. Arad agreed to add a grove of trees and cultural buildings to his spare plaza.

In January 2004, Mr. Arad’s selection was announced. For all those who admired his design’s stark elegance, others found it bland, minimal and so abstract as to be meaningless.

Mr. Arad prepared to defend his design against further changes while development officials, based on initial impressions, worried that he would prove immature and uncompromising. It was the start of an uncomfortable relationship.

Mr. Johnson, the board member, was pleased that the jury had remained immune from political pressure. “That’s the good news,” he said. “The bad news is that Michael Arad won.”

Mr. Libeskind struggled with his emotions as his master plan was altered by the winning memorial design. Initially, he fumed. Eventually, he shrugged.

“I would be throwing myself off an elevation,” Mrs. Libeskind said. “But Daniel had the capacity to look at something and find the good in it, to find the way it respected this or that element of his concept.”

Friends often suggested that Mr. Libeskind walk away, she said: “They’d come in and say, ‘Haven’t you had enough? First the Freedom Tower, now the memorial.’ ”

Mr. Libeskind’s response: “In my opinion, people give up too easily.”

His equanimity was put to the test one more time that very January when Mr. Calatrava conducted a private unveiling of the model for his PATH station. As designed, the terminal encroached on Mr. Libeskind’s Wedge of Light plaza, whose outlines were defined, Mr. Libeskind said, by the angle of the sun’s rays on Sept. 11.

Anxious Port Authority officials gathered with the architects on the first floor of Mr. Calatrava’s Park Avenue town house, where sweeping white walls and blond wood floors serve as a minimalist backdrop for the Spanish architect’s sculptures and watercolors.

“The tension was very high,” Mr. Seymour said. “Then Santiago made the point that when the roof opened every Sept. 11, that would allow the wedge of light. Nina started to say something against it. But Daniel stopped her. He said, ‘No. He’s accented the Wedge of Light. I like it.’ And then the wine was served.”


By the end of 2003, the black-shrouded Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street seemed to be standing in the way of progress, which was elusive enough in this one step forward, one step backward reconstruction effort.

It was really just a bystander building on the periphery of ground zero, but it got sucked into the dysfunction all the same.

As a result of the collapse of the southern twin tower, the bank building suffered a 15-story gash, filling with toxic ash and debris. A long, bitter battle between Deutsche Bank and its insurers ensued. Two years passed, during which the master plan that was created counted on the building’s property to expand the reconstruction site.

One day, two young executives of the development corporation were sitting in a diner bemoaning that the impasse between Deutsche Bank and its insurers seemed as insurmountable as conflicts of far greater proportion. What we need, Kevin M. Rampe and Matthew T. Higgins joked over lunch, is the kind of world-class mediator who gets dispatched to the Middle East or Northern Ireland.

Enter former Senator George J. Mitchell, his conflict resolution skills honed in Jerusalem and Belfast. And Mr. Mitchell indeed provided a speedy resolution, or so it seemed: the government would save the day, with the development corporation buying the toxic building and razing it.

It was a deal, Governor Pataki proclaimed in early 2004, that would “show the world that we are moving rapidly.”


By early 2004, a master plan was in place, a memorial design had been chosen, a PATH station design had been unveiled, a Freedom Tower design had been negotiated and the Deutsche Bank building was in government hands. Everything finally seemed to be coming together. Then the unraveling began.

Throughout 2004, more than 100 architects, engineers and consultants worked to take the conceptual design for the Freedom Tower through the design development process, level by level. But a dispute between the Port Authority and the Police Department ended up rendering most of their work a waste of time and money (an estimated $30 million).

The dispute, which did not become widely known until April 2005, had been simmering for more than a year before that.

Police officials said that they first voiced their concerns to development officials in late 2003 but were unable to obtain documents from the Port Authority or set up meetings with them.

In the spring of 2004, Raymond W. Kelly, the New York City police commissioner, told Mr. Silverstein that he was “deeply concerned about the Freedom Tower location and design from a terror standpoint,” Mr. Silverstein said. He asked for a document called the threat assessment risk analysis. Mr. Silverstein gave it to him, the police said.

As then designed, the Freedom Tower met the security standards of a federal courthouse. Police officials did not think that level of security was high enough. But the Port Authority believed that “doing it at courthouse standards was going far enough,” according to Mr. Seymour, then the Port Authority’s executive director, and police officials did not suggest an alternative.

Further, port officials thought that the Police Department’s discomfort was more fundamental, Mr. Seymour said: “The N.Y.P.D. was really not receptive, in my opinion, to the idea of building the Freedom Tower at all.”

On July 4, Mr. Pataki laid the cornerstone for the building.

This irked the police.

On Aug. 31, 2004, Michael A. Sheehan, the police deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, wrote Mr. Seymour a letter expressing his discomfort with the Freedom Tower’s “insufficient standoff distance” from West Street and about the use of glass on lower floors. These specific concerns, he wrote, had been voiced in previous meetings and ignored.

Mr. Sheehan did not get a response.

On Oct. 1, 2004, Mr. Sheehan wrote Mr. Seymour again. “Due to the history of Al Qaeda strikes at this location and the symbolic nature of the Freedom Tower itself, it seems clear that this building will become the prime terrorist target in New York City as soon as it is occupied.”

Eighteen days later, Mr. Seymour wrote back. “I just received your Oct. 1 letter today, which was apparently misrouted within the Port Authority,” he said. “We also have no record of receiving the Aug. 31 letter that was attached.”

Still, for the next several months, the Freedom Tower’s designers soldiered on.

“I do think that the port and Silverstein, to some extent, had their heads in the sand,” said Mr. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor. “They didn’t want to slow things down.”


At the same time, during twice-weekly meetings, the Port Authority, the development corporation and city planners tried to hammer out commercial design guidelines.

The dense site is like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle whose interlocking parts made all the government entities co-dependent, like it or not. And, to their chagrin, Mr. Silverstein held a lot of the pieces.

The arduous process involved setting building heights, bulk and setback as well as the width of sidewalks and streets. Mr. Silverstein consistently wanted bigger floors and taller buildings, participants said, leading to such paralysis that Roland Betts stepped in to mediate. It took 12 weeks.

During one mediation session at Chelsea Piers, participants haggled over space allocations for the eastern boundary of the site. That boundary was 1,700 feet long, but it had 1,703 feet worth of things on it. Mr. Betts implored Mr. Silverstein to relinquish one foot of space per floor in each of three buildings. Mr. Silverstein held firm.

Finally, Mr. Betts grabbed a fistful of red, white and blue peanut M & M’s from a bowl. He asked for a ruler and lined up the M & M’s alongside it. “You can’t tell me that you won’t concede this amount of M & M’s out of each building,” he said to Mr. Silverstein.

Mr. Silverstein relented, Mr. Betts said.

There was considerably more at stake when Mr. Silverstein battled his insurers.

In May 2004, after a 52-day trial involving some of his many insurers, Mr. Silverstein lost his first effort to claim that the two planes represented two attacks and required double payments. At the end of 2004, however, after a separate 35-day trial, he won the right to collect double payments from another set of insurers. He had spent about $100 million paying lawyers to fight this particular fight, which critics said was an unconscionable siphoning of money that should have been used for rebuilding. But in his mind, that $100 million produced an additional $1.1 billion for rebuilding ground zero, which was worth it.

The insurers had portrayed Mr. Silverstein as — “What the hell phrase did they use?” Mr. Silverstein said. “Not greedy. Not overreaching. Begins with an ‘r’ ” — rapacious in his scheme to recover as much insurance money as possible. But in an indication that his legal position was not that exotic, the Port Authority, after Mr. Silverstein won the second case, quietly filed its own lawsuit seeking a double payout on its own insurance policy.


By April 2005, Mr. Silverstein had what amounted to a conditional building permit from the Port Authority. Yet, he said, he was uneasy about proceeding without the Police Department’s blessing.

Complicating matters, the Freedom Tower had been designed with the expectation that West Street, a state highway, would be slimmed from six lanes to four for local traffic, with an express roadway depressed in a tunnel. The tunnel, according to some security experts, could have contained damage to the Freedom Tower from a car or truck bomb, reducing the need for standoff distance and bunker-like reinforcements.

If the tunnel idea were to be abandoned, however, that would pose a problem, which is where the future of the Freedom Tower intersected with the future of Goldman Sachs & Company, the investment banking firm.

One of Lower Manhattan’s largest employers, Goldman Sachs had resisted political pressure to establish new headquarters in the Freedom Tower, announcing instead that it would build its own building across West Street from ground zero.

But Goldman, whose continued presence downtown was considered vital, did not favor the tunnel, which would have disgorged traffic at its front door. According to government officials and business leaders, Goldman was promised by the governor’s office that the tunnel would be quashed. But, as the security concerns over the Freedom Tower became more pronounced, the tunnel, in various iterations, remained alive.

In early April 2005, Goldman Sachs announced that it was suspending plans to build its headquarters across from ground zero.

Less than two weeks later, the tunnel was killed. And, eventually, Goldman announced that it would revive its downtown headquarters, enticed by government incentives. The firm received $1.65 billion in Liberty Bonds, 20 percent of the $8 billion in low-cost, tax-free financing created by the federal government to help New York recover from Sept. 11.

According to a city official involved, it was “too good a deal, but then, the state wanted them to get twice as much.”

After the Police Department finally produced a report suggesting that the Freedom Tower be built to the security standards of an American embassy, Mr. Pataki announced at a public breakfast that it would be redesigned. Mr. Silverstein, according to a rebuilding official, was “apoplectic.”

“It was an unmitigated disaster,” Mr. Silverstein said. “We had wasted two years, and, as I pointed out to the governor, inflation was starting to take hold in the construction trades and everything was going to be more costly.”

Mr. Pataki announced that his chief of staff, John Cahill, would oversee the reconstruction effort and that James K. Kallstrom, a former assistant director of the F.B.I., would become the site’s security czar.

Kevin M. Rampe resigned as president of the development corporation, the second leader in three years to step down. He said that his resignation had nothing to do with the state of crisis, that he had lined up a job as an insurance executive. But Mr. Rampe disagreed with the abandonment of the tunnel and the redesign of the Freedom Tower.

“The minute the governor made the decision to redesign the Freedom Tower,” Mr. Rampe said, “people said, ‘Hey, if you can redesign that, why not rethink everything else?’ ”

Mr. Childs went back to the drawing board, this time alone. By the end of June 2005, he had unveiled yet another version of the Freedom Tower, sitting atop a 200-foot-tall bunker of concrete and steel, its torso slimmer and straighter and crowned by a centered antenna. Mr. Childs declared it a much better building, and Governor Pataki wholeheartedly agreed. But the next controversy was already bubbling.


Tom A. Bernstein, Mr. Betts’s partner at Chelsea Piers, first broached the idea of a freedom museum with development officials in early 2002. The idea had been sparked by a casual conversation with Peter W. Kunhardt, a filmmaker who was producing a PBS series called “Freedom: A History of US.”

“Peter and I started talking about how to frame the horror of 9/11 in a bigger story,” Mr. Bernstein said. “We thought, what if we had an institution devoted to telling the story of the struggle for freedom here and around the world?”

In May 2003, Mr. Bernstein and his friend Kenneth I. Chenault, the chief executive of American Express and a backer of the concept, met with Governor Pataki. They found him receptive.

In June 2004, Mr. Pataki, Mr. Bloomberg and development officials announced the selection, from among more than 100 applicants, of the International Freedom Center and three other institutions — the Drawing Center, the Joyce Theater and the Signature Theater Company — as the cultural anchors for the World Trade Center site.

By that point, Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Kunhardt had invested considerable time into building what they saw primarily as an educational institution, recruiting advisers, conducting feasibility studies and developing the concept.

With the Drawing Center’s leaders, they selected an architect, Snohetta of Norway, which got a $3.25 million contract from the government. In May 2005, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg unveiled Snohetta’s design, which the governor called “part of a lasting tribute to freedom.”

A month later, the troubles began, and, like so much of the controversy at ground zero, it involved ad hominem attack. Mr. Bernstein, like Mr. Betts, is a friend of President Bush. But politically, he is a member of the city’s liberal intelligentsia, son of the founder of Human Rights Watch and a leader himself of Human Rights First.

In June 2005, Debra Burlingame, a memorial foundation board member whose brother was a pilot of the plane that crashed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal calling the Freedom Center “a multimillion-dollar insult” that would offer a “slanted history lesson” without telling the story of Sept. 11. Ms. Burlingame pointed out that Mr. Bernstein’s human rights organization had sued Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on behalf of the administration’s detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is a freedom center that will not use the word ‘patriot’ the way our Founding Fathers did,” Ms. Burlingame wrote.

Talk radio snapped up the dispute. At the end of June, Mr. Pataki issued a statement demanding a guarantee that the center would not become a forum for “denigrating America.” In July, Mr. Bernstein made that pledge. But it was not enough. Mr. Pataki’s advisers said that the freedom center did not “clarify its message” in a way that tamped down the mounting furor.

“The site was supposed to bring people together to heal the wounds of Sept. 11,” said Mr. Cahill, the governor’s chief of staff. “It was never envisioned as a place that would breed controversy.”

Although the development corporation had undertaken a review of the Freedom Center’s program, Governor Pataki cut it short and evicted the institution from the memorial quadrangle. The SoHo-based Drawing Center, which had also come under attack, had already pulled out, later accepting an apology in the form of a $10 million grant from the development corporation.

The development corporation board, including Mr. Whitehead, who usually chose to stay above the fray, expressed outrage at Mr. Pataki’s intervention. Mr. Betts resigned.

“That was frankly the turning point for me and many others,” Mr. Betts said. “We were running a process, and Pataki just blew it all away. He trashed the museum, he upstaged the L.M.D.C., he ceded to the victims, he let them portray Tom as a leftie nut and he made a parody of the process.”

“Basically Pataki went like this,” Mr. Betts said, wetting his finger in his mouth, and holding it up to the wind.


Eliminating the Freedom Center did not eliminate controversy from the memorial complex, though. From the time that “Reflecting Absence” was selected in early 2004, the understated eloquence that the jury had admired did not satisfy the need that many families felt to dramatize Sept. 11.

“We did not like the mind-set that 9/11 is too dark and horrific of a story to tell so you need to be general and illustrate a concept, like loss, instead,” said Anthony Gardner of the Coalition for 9/11 Families.

Christine Ferer, widow of the Port Authority director, took Mr. Arad “by the hand” to Hangar 17 to experience the power of the World Trade Center artifacts. His eyes welled with tears, she said. At the behest of the jury, he had already added an underground “interpretive center” to house some artifacts, although some family members, like Mr. Gardner and Ms. Ferer, wanted at least some at street level, too.

Even before his design was unveiled, some family advocates urged Mr. Arad to change the way that he had displayed the names of the dead. Mr. Arad had arranged them randomly, but — on what Mr. Bloomberg said was his suggestion — he had placed service insignia beside the names of uniformed emergency workers. Some family members believed that the insignia created an offensive hierarchy among the dead.

“I said to Arad and Rampe, ‘Please don’t do this,’ ” said Edith Lutnick of Cantor Fitzgerald. “I said, ‘This will cause a tremendous amount of pain to a tremendous amount of people.’ But they did it.”

Ms. Lutnick then gathered leaders of family organizations and unions. It took more than a year, but eventually they hammered out a proposal for allowing victims to be listed in some kind of context — by tower or workplace name or fire battalion and so on. Civilians would be listed alphabetically, and uniformed workers by rank.

“What the families really want is some kind of affiliation, so they don’t have to search for their loved ones anymore,” she said.

But the development corporation persisted in supporting Mr. Arad’s vision on this one issue, and Mr. Bloomberg, in particular, defended it as one decision that would not be unmade.

The underground interpretive center grew in size and importance, becoming a memorial museum. And Mr. Arad found himself further sidelined when the firm of Davis Brody Bond was brought on as associate architect for the memorial and then named design architect for the museum.

Eventually, Mr. Arad was barely on speaking terms with any of his associates, although, Mr. Libeskind commented, the development corporation did not foster collegiality. “We were not even allowed to meet together with the others involved to converse and discuss,” Mr. Libeskind said. “Do you believe that?”

Mrs. Libeskind added, “It was supposed to be divide, control and conquer. It turned out to be just divide.”

After a while, some family members began identifying with Mr. Arad’s beleaguered state. “I have a great respect for him,” Ms. Iken said, “He’s fighting the process like we’re fighting the process.”

Underlying all the tension was the elephant in the living room: the cost.

The mayor wanted to talk about the memorial’s cost from the beginning, but others did not. “When we asked about the various proposals’ costs at the behest of the mayor, we got criticism,” Mr. Rampe, then president of the development corporation, said. “It was like, ‘How can you put a cost on the memorial?’ ”

There was, at the time, deep-seated confidence in the fund-raising potential of a memorial. “People all over the country will want to contribute,” Mr. Whitehead told the mayor.

In late 2004, the corporation spun off a foundation to raise money for the memorial and oversee its construction, which added another layer of bureaucracy and another assemblage of egos to a difficult decision-making process.

“When Whitehead started telling me that we needed a foundation to fund this, my response was, ‘Why?’ ” Mr. Betts said. “Washington gave us tons of money. We’re building parks with it. What is that all about? It’s great to have the parks. But I mean, this money was about Sept. 11, wasn’t it?”

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation awarded $250 million of federal ground zero money to the memorial and $273.5 million to parks and waterfronts.

Rebuilding officials say that since the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened in 1982, memorials have been financed privately. The Vietnam memorial, however, one whose scale the mayor often cited, cost $8.4 million. The World Trade Center memorial foundation’s fund-raising goal was $300 million.

After trying unsuccessfully to recruit a chairman for the foundation, Mr. Whitehead decided to head it himself. In short order, he single-handedly raised $130 million from 15 companies and individuals, he said. But that left $170 million to be raised, and with all the chaos swirling around the memorial, it was not.

Until this year, though, nobody knew how much the memorial was going to cost. Estimates ranged from $300 million to $350 million during the design competition to $500 million when the memorial foundation was created to the outsized figure of almost $1 billion this spring.

That is when Mayor Bloomberg blew the whistle.


Shortly before Election Day last fall, Mr. Bloomberg started using public pressure to force change in the commercial part of ground zero.

According to Mr. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor, Mr. Bloomberg did not have the political clout to assert himself more persuasively earlier, and needed to proceed deftly. “We were facing a $7 billion deficit and needed Albany and the governor’s help,” Mr. Doctoroff said.

Over time, however, the dynamic changed. By late 2005, the city was posting a record budget surplus, the mayor was celebrating his re-election by a 20 percentage-point margin and the governor was facing his final year in office.

The mayor’s first push was to call publicly for Mr. Silverstein to relinquish control of the site.

This public pressure represented collaboration behind the scenes between City Hall and Mr. Coscia, the chairman of the Port Authority.

As Mr. Coscia describes it, the Port Authority had taken a seat on the sidelines while the public process played itself out. The agency did what it could by itself, he said, on its PATH stations. By last fall, however, once ground was broken on Mr. Calatrava’s terminal, the Port Authority needed to collaborate more intimately with Mr. Silverstein on the infrastructure for the site and found itself “butting heads” with him on a daily basis.

Mr. Coscia invited the developer to his office to suggest a partial relinquishment of the site and the insurance proceeds so that the site could be developed more quickly.

“I stressed, ‘Let’s divide the work and do it faster,’ ” said Mr. Coscia, 46. “Larry, who’s always been a gentleman to me, said, ‘You’re a very nice young man and you probably have good things in your future, but you’re very naïve. Have a nice day.’ ”

“I didn’t convince Larry,” Mr. Coscia said. “But I did convince Doctoroff and City Hall.”

When Mr. Silverstein applied for $3.35 billion in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds to help finance the Freedom Tower and his other buildings on the site, Mr. Bloomberg found a lever. The city and the state each control half those bonds, and the mayor said that he would not agree to the city’s half unless Mr. Silverstein made certain concessions.

Mr. Silverstein needed the Liberty Bonds because insurance proceeds, which amounted to about $4.6 billion, would not nearly cover the expected costs of the five towers.

Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority together had spent more than $1.5 billion of the insurance money already, including more than $500 million for Mr. Silverstein’s rent to the Port Authority; about $190 million for the Port Authority to buy out Westfield America’s retail rights; and more than $700 million to repay Mr. Silverstein’s lender, GMAC, and to repay Mr. Silverstein and his partners most of their equity.

In the middle of December, Governor Pataki declared that the state would grant Mr. Silverstein $1.67 billion in Liberty Bonds, the state’s half of the financing he had requested. But he set a 90-day deadline for the developer and the Port Authority to work out a new understanding.

During that time, City Hall turned up the heat on Mr. Silverstein, pressing the idea that he would not have enough money to build five office towers at the site. The city disseminated a financial analysis concluding that Mr. Silverstein would be able to afford only two towers, at best, and could then pocket tens of millions of dollars while defaulting on the others. Mr. Silverstein disagreed with the analysis.

On March 14, the 90th day, the parties assembled at the Port Authority’s headquarters near Union Square in Manhattan. (City officials were not present.) They negotiated all afternoon over how to re-divide the site, breaking at 6 p.m. with a pledge to reassemble after dinner.

According to Janno Lieber, Mr. Silverstein’s World Trade Center project director, several substantial issues remained unresolved. He said that Mr. Silverstein, his executives and his lawyers spent the next several hours preparing a “counterdraft” of an agreement and working out differences with Mr. Silverstein’s co-investors.

Then they returned, with Mr. Silverstein fueled by several cups of coffee in anticipation of a long night. From the perspective of infuriated government officials, however, Mr. Silverstein and his people had disappeared for hours.

“They came back raring to go not long enough before the midnight deadline, and my normal calm demeanor did not stay calm,” Mr. Ringler said. “Quite honestly, this was an example of Larry waiting until the last minute to cut a deal, and probably viewing that he could extract more from us because we were under the gun. So I said, ‘It’s over.’ And I may have uttered profanities.”

According to several people present, what Mr. Ringler said was: “Get the hell out of here. This deal is dead. Pay your goddamn rent.”

In Mr. Silverstein’s eyes, the Port Authority had violated accepted “codes of conduct” by walking away from the negotiating table. He felt insulted by what followed: Mr. Pataki said that the developer had “betrayed the public trust.” Mr. Gargano, the governor’s senior adviser, called Mr. Silverstein “greedy.”

“After I cooled down,” Mr. Silverstein said, “I said to myself, ‘It’s a good thing I’m 74 going on 75.’ Because if I were 20 years younger, I would have exploded and told them all to go fly a kite and we would have ended up in litigation and the truth of the matter is, that would have been wrong.”

Indeed, the two sides were back at the negotiating table within a few days, and this time the negotiations included the city and the State of New Jersey. By the end of April, Mr. Pataki, Mr. Bloomberg and Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey presented Mr. Silverstein with two choices in a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

Mr. Silverstein turned down the first choice: $50 million in cash plus the Deutsche Bank property to walk away from the World Trade Center.

Under the offer that he ended up accepting, Mr. Silverstein would retain three towers and 6.2 million square feet of office space on Church Street, with promises of government leases and some $2.6 billion in Liberty Bonds. For a reduction in rent and an approximately $20 million developers’ fee, he would cede control of the 2.6-million-square-foot Freedom Tower and the Deutsche Bank property, which might become a hotel and residential building, to the Port Authority. And he would promise to adhere to a strict construction schedule.

In order to take on the Freedom Tower, the Port Authority, although it can issue bonds itself, demanded some $700 million in Liberty Bonds, about a third of the remaining insurance proceeds and a guarantee of 1 million square feet in tenants, which Mr. Pataki promised to secure from government agencies. The Port Authority does not plan to move its own offices into the 1,776-foot building but rather into one of Mr. Silverstein’s shorter towers on Church Street.

As part of the deal, the Port Authority made a pledge to set aside $100 million for the memorial. That will go toward infrastructure costs that many thought to be the Port’s responsibility all along — including Mr. Coscia, who said that he was a “chorus of one on that issue until I got Corzine on board and he said that he wouldn’t allow his commissioners to vote in favor of the agreement unless that was in there.” (The Port Authority later agreed to pay for an additional $50 million in infrastructure costs.)

On April 27, with the specifics of the deal still to be negotiated, Mr. Pataki, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Silverstein gathered at ground zero to proclaim the start of construction on the Freedom Tower. And then Mr. Pataki, who is contemplating a presidential bid, left for a two-day trip to New Hampshire.


Two years after the development corporation took over the Deutsche Bank building, it still loomed over ground zero, as if defying the site to be redeveloped. Its demolition had not proved straightforward at all; the building had been highly contaminated, and, making matters worse, more than 750 human bone fragments were discovered on its roof and in its air vents.

Reluctantly and sometimes resentfully, development officials confronted horrified families, anxious community residents and zealous environmental regulators. The project’s anticipated cost rose to $207 million, and delay followed delay while some family advocates took to the streets.

One week, they called for an elite military unit that specializes in the identification of human remains to be enlisted in the Deutsche Bank project. The next week, they held vigils to protest the underground components of the memorial.

The two issues converged briefly on the battlefield of muddy emotions. And tensions over the memorial, which by then was under attack from families, preservationists, politicians, security experts and Mr. Arad himself, finally boiled over.

At City Hall in late March, Councilman Alan Jay Gerson conducted a hearing on the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, which, Mr. Gerson said, the development corporation would not allow Mr. Arad to attend.

“What do the families want?” Ms. Regenhard said at the hearing, in a short speech that touched all the hot buttons: the perceived elitism and secretiveness of the process, safety and security, cost. “We want a memorial that’s above the ground. We want the names above the ground. We want a safe and secure memorial that’s built under the legal jurisdiction of the New York City building and fire codes. We don’t want this convoluted multimillion- and billion-dollar, really meshuggeneh idea, O.K.?”

In a play on Mr. Arad’s name for his design, Ms. Iken protested that the memorial did not reflect absence but an absence of leadership. Mr. Gerson pressed development officials on the names issue. Preservationists complained that tanks, pumps and other mechanical support for the memorial would desecrate the footprints of the towers.

The language was fierce. Referring to a proposed underground family room, Robert J. Kornfeld Jr., an architect representing the Historic Districts Council, described a windowless space wedged between a train track, water tanks and a medical examiner’s office. “I can’t imagine why anyone would ever go there other than to shoot themselves,” he said.

Into this volatile climate, a leaked letter written by Mr. Kallstrom, Mr. Pataki’s counterterrorism adviser, landed like a torpedo. In it, Mr. Kallstrom expressed concerns that the memorial would be vulnerable to attack.

In May, a cost analysis overseen by Mr. Betts produced a staggering estimate of $972 million, of which $672 million represented the memorial and memorial museum and the rest infrastructure costs.

Mr. Bloomberg drew a line in the sand. He called for a $500 million cap on spending for the memorial, speaking, he said, on behalf of Governor Pataki and Governor Corzine, too.

In May, Mr. Whitehead, after almost five years, stepped down as chairman of the development corporation and Ms. Dykstra resigned after only a year as president of the memorial foundation.

Weary of the turmoil and with the fifth anniversary of the attack approaching, political leaders wanted to resolve the problems with the memorial just as they had restructured the commercial portion of the site. Frank J. Sciame, a builder who had lost a bid to construct the memorial, was given the task of streamlining the memorial in a way that would cut costs and appease family critics both.

His final cost estimate for the memorial, which called for the elimination of six of eight underground galleries, came out to about $740 million: $510 million for the memorial and the memorial museum, $80 million for a visitors’ center and the rest for infrastructure. But that figure is already being revised upward.

Hours before that resolution was made public in late June, Mr. Sciame, Mr. Cahill and Mr. Rampe met with Mr. Arad and asked him if he would publicly challenge the decision to eliminate the underground galleries that he considered a fundamental part of his concept. Happily for them, Mr. Arad had already resigned himself to what was coming, having decided that going public with his discontent “would satisfy nothing but my own feelings.”


In his spacious office high above Midtown, Mr. Whitehead sat surrounded by a careerlong arsenal of photographs of himself with world leaders. And then there was the framed picture of Brad Pitt.

Inside a bag over Mr. Pitt’s shoulder was a flash of blue, the back cover of Mr. Whitehead’s autobiography, “A Life in Leadership, From D-Day to Ground Zero.” Mr. Pitt, it seems, borrowed the book from his girlfriend, Angelina Jolie, whom Mr. Whitehead got to know during the filming of “The Good Shepherd,’’ a movie in which “my friend Bobby De Niro” gave him a small role as a priest.

Robert De Niro himself has played a role in the making of the Sept. 11 memorial as a board member on the memorial foundation. His Tribeca Film Festival benefited from a $3 million grant from the development corporation, and he and partners received $38.9 million in Liberty Bonds to finance a luxury hotel downtown.

After Mr. Whitehead stepped down as chairman of the development corporation last spring, a colleague mentioned that he felt despondent. Asked if this were accurate, Mr. Whitehead said, “Yes. I felt responsible. Here I had this job, which gave me responsibility for rebuilding, and I couldn’t complete it. Now, despondent is sort of a medical problem. Maybe sad is a better word. I felt sad that a lot of things had gone wrong and I hadn’t been able to set them right.”

After Mr. Whitehead’s resignation, Eliot Spitzer, who is running to succeed the governor, publicly declared the development corporation a failure.

At the end of July, the development corporation announced that it was shutting down. It had, it said, completed its mission. Mr. Spitzer called that declaration “one of the great Orwellian moments of the decade.”

After the corporation’s announcement, Mr. Whitehead sent this reporter an e-mail message, saying that, upon reflection, he realized how much it really had accomplished, from conducting more than 200 public hearings to producing a master plan that, he said, “has endured.’’

For rebuilding officials, progress is the message of this fifth anniversary.

Mr. Pataki said that the vicissitudes of this difficult process would be forgotten with time. One day, he said, the site will be magnificent. “History will write that story, maybe not on Sept. 11, 2006,” he said.

But there are a lot of hurdles to clear between now and history.

The future of the memorial probably demands some resolution of the names issue. In the recent redesign, the names of the dead were raised to street level, which greatly placated the families. But because the names were left in random order, Ms. Lutnick says that major family groups will not endorse the memorial as is, and that no fund-raising drive is likely to succeed without their support.

The future of a performing arts center at ground zero, for which the development corporation hired Frank Gehry as architect, remains unclear, with only $50 million set aside for its creation.

Even the future of the Freedom Tower, which many downtown business people consider a potential white elephant, is still uncertain. If the governor does not secure the promised 1 million square feet in government leases at market rates, the tower’s construction could be suspended after it is brought up to street level, according to Mr. Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority.

“I’m not a fan of the Freedom Tower if it could financially impair the port,” Mr. Coscia said.

Only the PATH station and Mr. Silverstein’s three office towers seem securely on track, signaling that at the end of the day, real control of the site has returned to its technical owners, the Port Authority and Mr. Silverstein.

The Port Authority, which sought to divest itself of responsibility for the World Trade Center five years ago, will end up fully immersed in a site two acres bigger than the original. In addition to building the train station, it will now construct the memorial and two of the five towers.

All summer, facing the deadline of a Sept. 21 board meeting, the Port Authority and Mr. Silverstein have been embrangled in difficult negotiations to finalize their April agreement. While Mr. Pataki pressed them to conclude by Sept. 11, it proved impossible.

On Thursday, it fell to Mr. Silverstein, who said the five-year planning process “should have made me a manic-depressive by now,’’ to deliver news of progress in time for today’s anniversary.

With the governor by his side, Mr. Silverstein unveiled the designs of Towers 2, 3 and 4 by three renowned architects of his generation -- Fumihiko Maki, 78, of Tokyo, and Richard Rogers, 73, and Norman Foster, 71, of London.

For the first time, there was a complete image of ground zero reborn. Monumental and densely packed, it did not overtly resemble Mr. Libeskind’s ascending spiral of glass structures. And, with one glance, it raised the lingering issue of whether Lower Manhattan will be able to absorb 8.8 million square feet of new office space.

But it looked tangible, like something that could actually take shape.

Mr. Libeskind says he retains faith that the new World Trade Center will be “memorable’’ because of the combined talents — “It’s not some schlock architects’’ — joined together under the umbrella of his master plan.

Yet he worries that the city’s passion for the project has dissipated, that the urgency and idealism have faded.

“For many, Sept. 11 has become very abstract,’’ he said. “People forget already what this was all about. They think it’s about pretty facades and square-footage prices. They don’t remember anymore that it’s about people who perished, it’s about America, it’s about some pretty big ideas.”
Annotazioni − Clifford J. Levy and Jenny Nordberg contributed reporting.

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