Hundreds of construction workers, photographers, police officers, and city officials gathered today to open the Oculus, the newest $4 billion WTC transportation hub. The culmination of a project that lagged far behind schedule, testing the patience of lawmakers and taxpayers, the 350-feet long and 115-feet wide transit center offered nothing but daylit joy during its first minutes of public use. The money has been spent; the construction has (mostly) wrapped. All that's left to do now is enjoy its beauty.
And the Oculus is beautiful. Architect Santiago Calatrava has offered lower Manhattan a sweeping ivory ribcage, one that grasps the afternoon sun and then softy reflects it down onto the floor's glassy marble. The Oculus extends seamlessly with Calatrava's PATH corridor, which opened to the public in 2013, and together they offer an oneiric urban space that's unlike anything else in New York City.
"I think it's pretty awesome. It's opulent," Mark Blackshear, 62, said adjusted his camera. Blackshear took photos of his son as he ran in small circles around the Oculus, making sure to include plenty of ceiling beams in each frame. "They could have used some of the money to improve the transit system, but you can't really do anything about that now," he said.
"This is a legacy project," Steven Plate, chief of major capital projects at Port Authority said of the Oculus during an interview with the Times. "We had a moral obligation to do this right.” Plate's sentiments were echoed by two workers Thursday, who spoke of the pride they felt in building the towering public space.
"It's going to stand the test of time," Queens resident Brad Borst said. Borst has worked on the Oculus site for over six years and served as the project's fire safety manager. "Our kids and grandkids are going to be walking through here," he said.
"It's vastly different when there's people in here," Borst continued. Asked about the $4 billion price tag and myriad construction delays, he chuckled. "Just come and see it for yourself. People forget too quickly about what this represents here. It's magnificent."