It will be the first recreated street intersection on what had been the monolithic World Trade Center site, the first three-dimensional expression of a long-sought goal to reintegrate the 16-acre site with the rest of Lower Manhattan.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center, is to take down more fences on Friday to open Cortlandt Way, as the east-west street is now called on the trade center side.
This new crossroads, with constantly merging streams of pedestrians, ought to go far in restoring an urban pulse to the trade center site, which was cut off from its surroundings by design before Sept. 11, 2001, and by catastrophe and construction ever since.
The first small reintegration occurred last year, when a one-block stub of Greenwich Street reopened. A much bigger step occurred last May, when fences and gates were removed around the National September 11 Memorial and the public could, for the first time, enter or cross the eight-acre plaza without obstruction.
Credit"Atlas of the Borough of Manhattan," G. W. Bromley & Company (1921)
Patrick J. Foye, the executive director of the authority, said the opening of Cortlandt Way provided “a critical link for pedestrians to access the memorial and the site’s office towers.”
Cortlandt Way will not be open to vehicles. The central roadbed, paved in Mesabi black granite and lined with honey locusts, will be reserved for pedestrians. On either side there will be steps and small terraces in front of stores and restaurants operated under lease with Westfield World Trade Center, which controls almost all the retail space at the site.
Only the south side of Cortlandt Way, running along the nearly finished 4 World Trade Center, will be open for the time being. The north side is not likely to open for at least two years, as 3 World Trade Center nears completion.
Even with those qualifications, however, advocates of a street grid through the trade center site welcomed the opening of Cortlandt Way. It was designed by PWP Landscape Architecture, which also worked on the memorial.
“From the very beginning, one of the key words was connectivity,” said Michael Connolly, of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, as he was given a tour on Wednesday by Steven Plate, the director of World Trade Center construction for the Port Authority. “The desire of the people who live and work here was to be able to get across the site from east to west.” That will now be possible.
Mr. Connolly said the opening of another access route to the memorial would help relieve pedestrian congestion along Church Street, where large crowds surge at times. “It will make an enormous difference,” he said.
Though it was not part of Radio Row, the downtown hub of electronic appliances, Cortlandt Way is heir to several great retail traditions of the early 20th century.
In 1887, Max and Maurice Brill founded the Brill Brothers men’s clothing and furnishings business at 45 Cortlandt Street. It grew into an eight-store chain. (The family gave its name to the Brill Building at Broadway and 49th Street.) Two years later, the Childs restaurant chain was founded at 41 Cortlandt Street by William and Samuel Childs. (At its peak, Childs claimed to serve 50 million meals annually.)
Much of Cortlandt Street, including Radio Row, disappeared in the 1960s when the Port Authority condemned 12 blocks, from Liberty to Vesey Street, and from Church to West Street, for the construction of the twin towers.
After they were destroyed in 2001, the authority planned to recreate Cortlandt as a glassed-in galleria. This idea was strongly opposed by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Amanda M. Burden, the chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, and Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of the Manhattan planning office, spoke emphatically in 2004 about the need to restore real streets through the site.
This week, Ms. Burden said: “I think the final design, which took a very long time, is intricate, welcoming yet elegant, and leads one gracefully from Church to the memorial plaza while integrating the two street-level facades of towers three and four. I am very eager to see what it looks like and if the design, as I left it, was realized.”
Mr. Chakrabarti also expressed gratification. “To me, the most thrilling aspect of the site is how the streets are reknitting it back into New York City,” he said this week. “From a New Yorker’s perspective, what the site needs is some sense of normalcy again.”
“That is not at odds with mourning,” he added, “or a sense of what happened there.”