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Survivors Stairway relocation adds fuel to preservation row.

The Port Authority has confirmed the so-called Survivors Stairway--the last standing ruin from the former World Trade Center that helped thousands of people escape the attacks--will be moved from its current location on the site of the new Tower Two.

However, preservationists and WTC developer, Larry Silverstein, continue to face off as the clock ticks and decisions about how the staircase will be moved, where it will be moved to and whether it should be relocated permanently, remain undetermined.

"The decision will have to be made and the staircase will have to be moved no later than February 2007," said Steve Coleman, spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Preservationists regard the staircase as a ruin that can provide tangible evidence about the events of September 11, 2001, in a way that the new buildings being planned cannot, according Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Silverstein has yet to fully integrate the staircase into his plans and has said that, although he's willing to examine all the options, studies to date indicate that installing the 75-ton concrete remnant in the lobby of the new tower would pose real safety and security challenges.

Preservationists hope the staircase can be moved in its entirety.

Robert Silman, principal of Robert Silman Architects, investigated methods for moving the structure as a consultant to the New York Landmarks Conservancy. He found a common method perfectly viable for moving the staircase.

The 174-pound structure would be scooped up onto steel beams, cut free from its foundation, jacked up into the air and then moved on a track onto Vesey Street. It would then be moved by dollies to a temporary holding place.

At a recent Port Authority meeting, Silverstein and architect Lord Norman Foster proposed a plan to chop most of the staircase and relocate that portion outside Tower 2, however that plan was rejected by preservation groups.

"We feel that their proposal to segment the stairway and preserve only a small portion of the stair treads will permanently destroy the stairway's historic integrity. We would add that, as a result of the many thousands of emails the World Trade Center Survivors Network and Parade Magazine have received from concerned citizens from all over the country, we feel that the symbolic and iconic status if the Survivors' Stairway must be taken into the consideration of all further preservation designs," wrote Richard Zimbler, member of the steering committee of the World Trade Center Survivors Network in a recent letter to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

As the survivor's staircase was named by the National Trust for Historic Places as one of Americas most endangered places, activists continue to question why its status seems so precarious.

"The Port Authority and Silverstein have to follow federal law and federal process. We showed this staircase was historic and so our first priority is to save it. If they can't do that, they have to prove conclusively why that isn't possible. We are dealing with a federal process here that has to be respected," Breen said.
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Author:Wolffe, Danielle
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 8, 2006
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