Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Lower Manhattan Recovery Office in New York, NY
Preservation of the Last Remnants of the World Trade Center
New York, New York
Award Type: National Trust/ACHP Award
On September 11, 2001, a stone and steel staircase on Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan was forever immortalized by an untold number of people who used the stairs to flee the blazing towers on that tragic day. After the massive cleanup of the World Trade Center site, the battered staircase and portions of underground walls and column bases outlining the footprint of the Twin Towers were all that survived.
Despite the historic and emotional significance of the "Survivors' Staircase" and other remnants, their future was jeopardized by planned redevelopment, and in 2006, the National Trust placed the Vesey Street Staircase on its annual list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Today – just three years later – the National Trust is honoring the Federal Transit Administration for the role it played in saving both the staircase and the other evocative links with 9/11.
First, the World Trade Center site was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Then, under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, more than 70 consulting parties worked through an exhaustive and sometimes contentious process of negotiation, collaboration and innovation. A major challenge was the Vesey Street staircase. Early proposals called for saving only a few token steps, but the FTA spearheaded efforts that moved an entire 57-ton run of stairs and eventually installed it at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, now under construction.
"Just three years ago, the Vesey Street staircase was named one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "Now, thanks to FTA's leadership and the work of a dedicated coalition, this and other Ground Zero remnants will endure as compelling reminders of a day that cannot – must not – be forgotten."
"Working through the Section 106 process, the FTA and its partners solved a complicated challenge that saved the Vesey Street staircase for the benefit of the nation," said John L. Nau, III, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. "This project provides an authentic experience of a historic place in our nation's recent history that will forever be a poignant time in the story of America."
The award presented to the Federal Transit Administration is bestowed jointly by the National Trust and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), which advises the President and the Congress on national historic preservation policy.
Along with the Federal Transit Administration, co-recipients honored for the preservation of last remnants of the World Trade Center site are: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.