Events of a Lifetime
Tishman Shares the Emotion, Opportunity
and Challenge of Rebuilding Downtown
To say the last few years of Daniel Tishman's life have been
eventful is an understatement.
From watching the crumbling of the twin towers - which his
father John Tishman had built three decades ago - to seeing
the cornerstone for the new Freedom Tower put into place,
Tishman has witnessed events few builders will ever experience.
In a recent interview Tishman shared his personal experiences
- as well as those of Tishman Construction Corporation - as
the company continues its work to help rebuild Lower Manhattan.
From disaster recovery work at the Verizon Building in the
days following Sept. 11, 2001 to the groundbreaking ceremony
for the Freedom Tower, it has been a time of great challenge
and emotion. But it has also been a time of great opportunity.
On July 4, as the world watched the cornerstone for the Freedom
Tower put into place, Tishman said he was overcome by emotion.
"It really was one of the rare experiences one has
in their lives," Tishman said. "It was almost as
if electricity was surging through my body."
Beyond being the tallest building in the world, the 1,776-ft.
Freedom Tower will be an important piece of a large puzzle
that will form the rebuilt World Trade Center area. Aside
from handling the complex design and technical details that
come with a project of this magnitude, Tishman must build
the project in the context of other important neighboring
initiatives like the World Trade Center Memorial and the new
World Trade Center Transportation Hub. During an average work
week, Tishman estimated that he attends a total of a day's
worth of meetings dedicated to the project.
Adding to the challenge has been the high-profile disputes
between parties involved in the rebuilding effort and a public
that, at times, demonstrates impatience with the rebuilding
"People ask me all the time, 'why don't I see anything
happening at the site?'" Tishman said.
Tishman urges casual observers of the site to remember that
a 500,000-sq.-ft. below-grade structure must be constructed
before above-grade steel can rise, sometime in 2006. Site
preparation work - including demolition of a parking garage
- will take months. Tishman is projecting that the building
will be ready for occupancy in late 2008 or early 2009.
"It's a meaningful start, it's not just window dressing,"
Tishman said about the groundbreaking.
Although the Freedom Tower is likely to be the crown jewel
of Tishman's career, it is not the only Downtown project that
the company is working on. While the company wasn't involved
in the clean-up efforts of the pile formed when the towers
fell, Tishman was involved in rebuilding efforts that began
shortly after the disaster.
In fact, Tishman had about 30 employees working at the Verizon
Building on Sept. 11. A portion of 7 World Trade Center fell
onto the building, demolishing a quarter of the building's
east façade and ruining much of the south facing wall.
The building housed the majority of Lower Manhattan's telecommunications
systems, which were lost during the attack.
"We had a lot of people working in and around the area
on Sept. 11. We had no idea for a few days whether we'd lost
anybody," Tishman said.
On Sept. 12, Tishman sent workers to the site to begin the
first stages of what would become a months-long, $1.4 billion
restoration project. The first priority was restoring the
telecommunications services which allowed the stock market
to resume operations about a week later.
In the days following the attacks, Tishman also did work
to assess damage to the Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York
buildings, both of which sustained severe damage. Tishman
later completed restoration and renovation work at the Bank
of New York building at 101 Barclay St.
"It was a very difficult challenge on the part of the
tradespeople because the focus wasn't on the rebuilding effort
at that point. There a strong desire to do search and rescue,"
The 32-story, brick-and-limestone landmarked Verizon Building
was built in 1927 and is widely considered by architects and
historians to be the first Art Deco skyscraper. The building
has intricately carved cubic blocks of ornamental limestone
and ornately detailed panels on its exterior.
The lobby, which was designated an interior landmark in 1991,
had been damaged by burst water mains and firefighting efforts
following the attacks. A team of 30 conservators, technicians
and artists worked for two years to restore it. In recognition
of the work, Tishman Interiors Corp. received a Lucy G. Moses
Preservation Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
In addition to work at the Verizon Building, Tishman is also
constructing 7 World Trade Center. Many industry observers
have remarked about the fast pace at which the 52-story, 1.6-million-sq.-ft.
building is rising. By mid-July, steel has reached the 35th
floor, with a topping off ceremony planned for November.
In May a new Con Edison substation located in the base of
7 World Trade Center that provides power to major portions
of Downtown was turned on. The new substation comprises 95,000
sq. ft. and its concrete shell rises 75 ft. above grade. The
structure houses three transformers that generate 80 megawatts
of power. Two more transformers will be fitted within two
years with plans for five more to accommodate the increasing
demand for power in Lower Manhattan, Tishman said.
"Nobody believed we'd have 7 World Trade three-quarters
of the way built and the cornerstone laid by July 4,"
Tishman credits much of the impetus for getting projects
moving to Larry Silverstein, with whom the company has had
a longstanding relationship. Silverstein is the head of Silverstein
Properties which controls the 7 World Trade Center site and
has a ground lease with the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey for the remaining World Trade Center sites.
Within 48 hours of Sept. 11, Silverstein called John Tishman
and resolved to rebuild the World Trade Center site.
"He is a remarkable man," Tishman said. "Larry
never waivers for a moment, never gives in. He's a decision-maker,
he doesn't equivocate for a moment."
With the incidents of Sept. 11 almost three years in the
past, Tishman looks to the future with a renewed appreciation
for the industry and the city.
"There is a tremendous resilience in our national psyche,"