Freedom tower may lose broadcast antenna

People involved in the rebuilding process of the Freedom Tower said that the 1776ft tower could lose its distinctive spire, which was to be the new transmission antenna for local broadcasters. Photo courtesy Lower Manhattan Development.

After a police department report questioning its safety, New York Gov. George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the lead developer at ground zero in New York City said last week that the soaring office building known as the Freedom Tower will be significantly redesigned to satisfy security concerns. The redesign could result in the elimination of a planned broadcast antenna to replace local stations’ transmission facilities lost Sept. 11.

Key people involved in the rebuilding process said that the 1776ft tower, unveiled 18 months ago as the product of a contentious collaboration between two world-famous architects, is likely to lose its signature twisting form, along with its distinctive spire — a conscious reflection and reply to the Statue of Liberty’s upraised arm in the New York harbor, the New York Times reported. Inside that spire was to be the new broadcast transmission antenna.

The governor insisted some form of the Freedom Tower would be built, though the project will be now be delayed well past its planned 2009 opening. The tower was to be the centerpiece of the $11 billion project to replace the World Trade Center.

For weeks there have been reports of trouble with the tower. The dispute over the spire involves its role in housing the antenna that would make the Freedom Tower the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere.

Last month Bloomberg News reported a disagreement over the off-center placement of the antenna spire. Kenneth Ringler, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told New York business leaders at a breakfast forum there were issues between various parties over the design. “The radio and TV people think that putting (the spire) off-center would interfere with their ability to transmit their signal,” Ringler said.

Daniel Libeskind, designer of the master plan for the 16-acre trade center site, has championed the off-center spire as the crowning element of architect David Childs’ Freedom Tower design. The Port Authority’s engineers and architects are trying to resolve the broadcasters’ concerns, Ringler said.

The New York Post reported that bankers won’t finance the tower’s broadcast antenna because the engineering design for the top of the building is unproven.

However, it was a recent report by the New York Police Department about the tower’s vulnerabilities that triggered the redesign. It will be several weeks before officials come out with a new design, state and city officials said, and longer before detailed engineering drawings are ready. People involved in the redevelopment have estimated that the redesign could take as long as a year.

New York City broadcasters are currently using the Empire State Building for transmission antennas. Other attempts to build a stand-alone broadcast antenna in the New York City area have failed.

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