Wall Streeters hope that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan for overhauling the U.S. financial system is an April Fools' joke, Goldman head Lloyd Blankfein buys his maid a nice apartment, and someone has a birthday in our roundup of finance, law, media, and real-estate news.
The chance to put a restaurant at the top of the Freedom Tower seems like a peerless opportunity all right — at least, that's what the Port Authority hoped when it invited restaurateurs to propose plans for the new space, set to open in 2013, earlier this week. But we only know one person who has created a major restaurant atop the city’s highest skyscraper: Michael Whiteman, who with his partner Joe Baum created Windows on the World (which the Freedom Tower’s restaurant will be the de facto replacement for). Whiteman is something of an expert on skyscraper restaurants: He also created the modern version of the Rainbow Room, along with top-floor restaurants in Singapore and Taipei. We asked him how hard it was going to be for whoever won the contract.
Starting today, the Port Authority is accepting early bids from developers for control of a two-story restaurant atop the Freedom Tower, with a grand opening slated for early 2013. [The Real Estate/NYO]
More bad news about the FDA: It’s “so understaffed that, at its current pace, the agency would need at least 27 years to inspect every foreign medical device plant that exports to the United States, 13 years to check every foreign drug plant and 1,900 years to examine every foreign food plant.” [NYT]
Le Cirque’s Restaurant Week menus are such a hit that the Maccioni clan is going to make them available every weekday in February. [Zagat]
Oh, the excitement back in January, when Freedom Tower construction finally — five-plus years after the attacks — reached the towering height of eight feet below sidewalk level. The milestone was marked by a festive "Metro" section article in the Times, explaining just where you had to stand, and just how you had to crane your neck, to get a view of this feat of construction. So it's with even greater exultation that we discovered this picture on Curbed today, which seems to indicate that construction has — are you sitting down? — actually progressed to above ground! Of course, the Curbed boys speculate what we're seeing is merely a few Portajohns. Perhaps. But, even so, hey, we'll take what we can get.
WTC Chaos Update: Something Rises Above Grade! [Curbed]
Earlier:The Freedom Tower Exists for Anyone Who Truly Believes In It
Some day — one hopes sooner rather than later — the Freedom Tower will be an actual building, not just an idea to argue about, and that building will have a lobby. Daily Intel got the first look at renderings of the planned lobby, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. A 60-foot-high expanse of prismatic glass looks out on the memorial pool. "The lobby sheds light into the memorial pool," explained SOM's TJ Gottesdiener. "And the front door is celebrated." Where the old Twin Towers sealed themselves from the street, the new lobby echoes the old bustle of downtown — true to the notion that Daniel Libeskind laid out before he lost control of the building's design. "The greatest thing about Danny's master plan is that it lets streets flow," Gottesdiener said. Got that? Even more impressive than the renderings, SOM just said something nice about Libeskind. —Alec Appelbaum
• Guess what Port Authority is going to do with the Freedom Tower once the construction is over? What every owner of a half-built property dreams of doing: Flip it. By its completion in 2011, the skyscraper may be up for sale, say Spitzer and Corzine. [Metro]
• Meet Mathieu Eugene, the City Council's newest member and the first Haitian to fill the seat. Eugene won a low-profile, low-turnout special election in Brooklyn after his predecessor, Yvette Clarke, moved on to Congress. [NYP]
• Busta Rhymes, on trial for kicking a fan and beating up a former chauffeur, rejected a deal that would land him in jail for a cred-building six months. The alternative: probation, anger management, and two weeks of lecturing kids about violence. [NYDN]
• In New York, we wage our war on Christmas all year round — and we're winning it, too. The U.S. Supreme Court washed its hands of the Brooklyn-filed case that challenged the citywide ban on school nativity displays. (Menorahs and Islamic crescents, however, are totally okay). [FoxNews.com]
• And in New Jersey, a similar battle with a techie twist: A public-school history teacher is in hot water after a student taped him proselytizing ("If you reject [Jesus], you belong in hell," etc.) and saying that dinosaurs were on Noah's ark. [NYT]
How starved is the city for any tangible progress at ground zero? Well, consider this bit from today's Times:
Stand on Vesey Street, between Greenwich and Washington Streets. Look through the chain-link fences and over the Jersey barriers. The tops of six columns of the tower’s south perimeter are now visible, sprouting from the depths of ground zero. A seventh column, standing alone nearby, is where the Freedom Tower’s east plaza will be …
They are visible from the sidewalk now because a second tier of steel has been added to each column, bringing them up to about 8 feet below street level.
That's right, reporter David Dunlap gives you step-by-step instructions on where to stand, which way to face, and how hard to squint to see the thicket of steel that will eventually become the foundation for the Freedom Tower. Imagine the corks that will pop when the construction actually reaches sidewalk level.
What a View to Behold, and It's Really Something [NYT]
In 2003, George Pataki expected the superstructure of Freedom Tower to have reached its full 1,776 feet by this September. In 2004, he presided over the cornerstore-laying for the building. And yesterday, finally, the first steel beams were installed there. (How is this different than that otherfirst-things-being-installed ceremony a few weeks ago? We seem to recall that one involved concrete rather than steel.) Two beams were the result of yesterday's work — there'll be 27 in total — and they top out some 40 feet below street level. So thanks, Pataki, for that awesome leadership. You've shown the terrorists!
Pataki Finds Satisfaction in New Roots at 9/11 Site [NYT]
You see all that excitement? Let the historical record reflect that Saturday, November 18, was the start of construction on Freedom Tower. A mere five years after the Twin Towers were destroyed, and a mere two and a third years after the Freedom Tower cornerstone was laid, the concrete foundation was poured for the 1,776-foot office building. Of course, you still won't see anything above street level till 2008. Exciting!
A Towering Start [NYDN]