Freedom Tower: New Setbacks Over Setbacks

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The Freedom Tower at the former World Trade Center site was supposed to be a glass-and-steel exclamation point on America's post-9/11 rebound, but after new concerns about an old weapon forced architects back to the drawing board last week, the project is looking more like a question mark.

Truck bombs, not hijacked planes, were the subject of an April 8th NYPD vulnerability report that caused developers and politicians, already under fire for rising costs and construction delays, to announce that they would have to reinforce the slender structure or move it further from the street. Experts say the design changes could delay the completion date of the building from 2008 to as late as 2010. Aesthetes worry that the best countermeasure for truck bombs—concrete, and lots of it—will ruin the airy grace of the original tower design and perhaps preclude some of its more symbolic features, like the planned 1,776 feet height and the spire that echoes the Statue of Liberty.

The Tower's troubles are just the latest in a string of setbacks for the ambitious World Trade Center redevelopment project. Last month, financial giant Goldman Sachs & Company backed away from plans to build a 40-story headquarters adjacent to the Freedom Tower, citing security concerns of their own.

So why were the planners, who endowed the Freedom Tower with security features for everything from burning jet fuel to anthrax spores, unprepared for a Ryder Truck filled with explosives? Developers say the NYPD simply ambushed them with shifting demands. Police say they'd been privately raising these concerns for months before their official report. And public watchdogs say the finger-pointing itself is symptomatic of the real problem. "There's a confidence problem here, but it's not about security," says Nikki Stern, executive director of the Families of September 11. "It's about leadership."