Hard to believe what with Tribeca real estate prices, but the World Trade Center began as an urban renewal project. It was spearheaded in 1960 by David Rockefeller who hoped to stimulate the languid economy in lower Manhattan just as his father had revived midtown’s economy in the 1930s with Rockefeller Center.
The original plan was for the Trade Center to be built on the East River, near where the South Street Seaport sits today. But the Governor of New Jersey objected, resenting that New York would get the $335 million project. (Kids.)
|Architect's model for proposed World Trade Center on East River, 1960|
How to get New Jersey’s necessary vote? Ridership on New Jersey’s H&M (Hudson & Manhattan) Railroad had declined over 80% after commuters started driving over new tunnels and bridges. Port Authority promised to take over the bankrupt H&M and re-site the Center on Manhattan’s West Side, more convenient for New Jersey commuters. New Jersey threw in, and PATH was born.
|Radio Row, looking east along Cortlandt towards Greenwich Street, photo by Berenice Abbott, 1936|
New Jersey wasn’t the only force of resistance. The neighborhood where the Trade Center was re- sited, called Radio Row, was up in arms. It was home to hundreds of small businesses and residents who filed an injunction in 1962 against Port Authority’s power to evict them. A year later, the NY Court of Appeals overturned the injunction, on grounds that the project had a “public purpose.”
Also opposed was the Museum of Natural History, citing hazards the buildings would impose on migrating birds.
After years of controversy, work on World Trade Center foundations began in 1966. Construction started in 1968. More than 1.2 million cubic yards of earth and rock were excavated to make way for the Center. The excavated was dumped in the Hudson to create 23.5 acres of land(fill) deeded to the City of New York--now Battery Park City.
The Twin Towers were completed in 1970. There were 43,600 windows. You may recall how narrow they were. They measured only 18 inches wide. Lead architect Minoru Yamasaki had a fear of heights. He thought narrow windows would make building occupants always feel secure.