The No. 1 line at the Cortlandt St. subway station is set to reopen in October.
It was demolished, but never defeated.
Dust-clotted debris and crumpled I-beams have given way to gleaming new track and actual walls as the Cortlandt St. subway station awakens 17 years after the 9/11 attacks crushed it.
The last piece of the WTC site, the station on the No. 1 line — which ran beneath the marvel that was the World Trade Center and which had an entrance near the hallowed Survivor Steps that saved hundreds of people running for their lives — is set to reopen in October, a few months after its 100th birthday July 1.
Following nearly two decades of doing without, one might wonder at the need for this $158 million station. After all, people have made other commuting arrangements in the ensuing years. And the Port Authority’s behemoth Oculus and Fulton Center, with its myriad subway connections and PATH station, is nearby.
But Cortlandt St. has been missed for both its usefulness and its symbolism. Then-Gov. George Pataki’s words in the bewildering aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks — “This is going to help more than a million people by restoring service, help the recovery of lower Manhattan and sends a powerful message that New York City can’t be stopped” — are as solid as a cement platform now as they were then.
“It was a sign of coming back and having a central business district, having a place where more tourists can come, and having public transportation accessible to more people,” Anthony Notaro, chairman of Manhattan Community Board 1 and a Battery Park City resident, said last week. “Now, it’s getting more active.”
For commuters, the return of the Cortlandt St. station at the WTC site means greater convenience. No longer will office workers have to walk north to the stations at Chambers and Franklin Sts. or cut across lower Manhattan to the Oculus and Fulton Center transit hub.
“If there was a 1 train here, that’d be awesome,” said Rodd Corner, 41, of Martinsville, N.J. The Citigroup paralegal said he has to walk to the Franklin St. station if he wants to catch a ride home from Penn Station.
“It’d be very convenient for me,” he said of Cortlandt St., adding it will benefit many co-workers as well.
The return of Cortlandt St. station will also mean less time exposed to the elements.
“I always go to Chambers, even though it’s a hell of a walk,” said Scott Gewirtz, 52, a finance worker who lives on the Upper West Side. “It’ll just make it faster for me and I can go all the way underground.”
Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, said the number of private-sector jobs in lower Manhattan is back to where it was before 9/11, at 242,000 positions.
“This is the right moment,” Lappin said, “where people want the connectivity and they want to be able to take the 1 train south of Chambers.”
The Cortlandt St. station, directly beneath the World Trade Center, was literally crushed from the collapsing Twin Towers. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority rebuilt the train tunnel, bringing subway service back to lower Manhattan south of Chambers St., a year after the terror attacks.
But the destroyed Cortlandt St. station remained shuttered, even as the Port Authority built the $4.4 billion marble Oculus and mall around it, connecting PATH trains and the Fulton Center.
The MTA took over the project from the Port Authority in 2015 and faced its own challenges, including a sluggish contractor and changes to the designs of communication, electrical and mechanical systems.
“We focused on . . . (a realistic construction) schedule first,” said Janno Lieber, the MTA’s construction chief and a former WTC developer at Silverstein Properties. “We created a real schedule.”
The brand-new station, seen as a critical link in the heart of the World Trade Center area for thousands of commuters and tourists visiting the sacred site, will honor its past while invoking humanity’s highest ideals.
The work of artist Ann Hamilton will feature words from the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of Independence. The words will be etched lengthwise into stark white walls, according to an artist’s rendering published by the Tribeca Trib.
“From a symbolic standpoint, this is the last major piece of infrastructure being built on the World Trade Center site,” Lieber said.