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World Trade Center

71-99: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE , June 9, 1999


The plaza of the World Trade Center - fitted with a new granite surface, new restaurants and food kiosks, new dining tables and chairs, new benches and free cultural entertainment - reopens with a summer-long arts festival beginning Friday, June 11, at 6 P.M., with a Salsa Dance Party.

More than 70 public performances - everything from jazz and blues to cabaret and dance - will continue through September 16.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has reinvented the 25-year-old Austin J. Tobin Plaza with a $12 million renovation.

Originally designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Associates as a "contemplative" space, the plaza at the foot of the 110-story Twin Towers has been reconfigured as an "outward-looking" public space for a burgeoning 24-hour community - without losing sight of the original intent.

The project completes the transformation of the plaza - complementing the entertainment, dining and shopping already offered by the Port Authority to Downtown residents, workers and visitors.

Today, the World Trade Center is the hub of Downtown. Skybridges connect the plaza to the World Financial Center to the west and office buildings to the north and south.

But the biggest change in the neighborhood is people. At least 20,000 residents comprise the neighborhood, in addition to the millions who work here and the tens of millions who visit.

Apartments have sprouted in Battery Park City, itself created with landfill excavated from the foundations of the Twin Towers. Office buildings elsewhere in Downtown have been converted to housing. Lofts are homes to artists and their families. Public beaches are planned for Hudson River Park.

"When designing the World Trade Center more than 30 years ago, the architects conceived of the plaza and the entire complex as a city within a city, quite separate from its surroundings," said Alan Reiss, the Port Authority's Director of the World Trade Center. "But the center quickly became an economic anchor, sparking Lower Manhattan's growth and renewal. As our neighborhood grew and changed, so did the needs of our neighbors.

"We've always tried to be good neighbors to the millions of people who live, work and visit here," Mr. Reiss said. "The latest example is the brand-new plaza. We're providing a beautiful public space, world-class entertainment and incomparable dining and shopping opportunities. When people see all the good things that are happening here, we're sure they're going to keep coming back."

The World Trade Center's designers conceived of the plaza as an escape from the world's busiest financial district. A worker could enjoy the running water of the fountain and the Fritz Koenig sculpture in the center.

The plaza's purpose has evolved over 25 years. Prior to this renovation, 40,000 1-inch thick cream marble pavers covered 130,000 square feet. The marble weathered in New York's climate. The contemplative design no longer fit all the public events that pack the plaza.

Planning by project architect Urbahn Associates for a restored and renovated Austin J. Tobin Plaza began late in 1997. A contract was awarded to general contractor Halmar Builders in March 1998. Cold Spring Granite Company was commissioned to quarry, cut and supply the granite.

Work began in July 1998, under an accelerated schedule that required a 15,000-square-foot, air-supported "tennis" bubble. All the major segments of the renovation were substantially complete by the first week of June 1999.

The results are truly pleasing and will fit the needs, both aesthetic and practical, of those living in, working in and visiting Downtown well into the next millennium.

The 40,000 cream paradiso marble pavers have been replaced by an equal number of gray and pink granite stones from Canada and Texas. The changes make the plaza easier to maintain, softer to the eye and more inviting.

To add to the granite's durability, it is half an inch thicker than the marble it replaced. Other plaza improvements:

· 67 new benches set in a new pattern, focusing on and spiraling from the central fountain;

· 60 new planters filled with seasonal flora, currently pink and purple petunias;

· new restaurants and food kiosks; and

· about 200 chairs and 50 tables for outdoor dining.

Still to come are new lights designed by Howard Brandston in conjunction with Joseph R. Loring that will double the brightness of the plaza in the evening. Being installed this summer are 350 roof-mounted perimeter "twinkle moon lights," focused on the plaza. Seven floodlights will light the fountain.

So bring a book or a friend. Buy a sandwich or a gourmet meal. Enjoy a cool summer breeze and world-class entertainment. Welcome back to a better public space: the World Trade Center's Austin J. Tobin Plaza.

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