Eleven years after Sept. 11, Anthony Sartor ’64 and Steven Plate ’76 are rewriting the rules of urban engineering.
Seasoned engineers Anthony Sartor ’64 and Steven Plate ’76 have lived and worked by the books for their entire careers, producing many important projects for New York City.
But this time, they’re writing the book.
Sartor, Ph.D., P.E., P.P., is the chairman and CEO of consulting engineering firm Paulus, Sokolowski & Sartor, a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and chair of the World Trade Center Redevelopment Subcommittee.
For the past seven years, he’s worked hand-in-hand with another Jasper — Plate, director of World Trade Construction and deputy chief of capital planning — to create what they call the eighth wonder of the world, a miracle in the making, a city within a city.
The new World Trade Center is a logistical long shot: 100,000 tons of steel, 200,000 cubic yards of concrete in One World Trade Center alone, and 3,500 construction workers on a 16-acre site surrounded by hundreds of thousands of commuters each day.
“It’s just an incredible set of circumstances down there that is unparalleled in the world in terms of difficulty, in terms of the construction on the site,” Sartor says, likening the $15-20 billion World Trade Center project to building five Empire State Buildings downtown.
In addition to One World Trade, which will rise to a significant 1,776 feet, making it the tallest building in the western hemisphere, the project includes three other towers, the 9/11 memorial and museum, and a transportation hub the size of Grand Central Station, all outfitted with the latest technology and security.
“You can say there’s some formula in a book,” says Plate, who oversees 70-100 employees directly, with an astounding 26,000 under them. “There’s no formula for the things we’ve seen down here. It’s what’s in your heart, it’s what’s in your soul, it’s what’s in your gut that drives us every day.”
Plate keeps a photograph of the 84 Port Authority members who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, as a reminder to forge ahead and create not only an engineering marvel but a special memorial to the victims as well.
Their real work started in September 2006 when the Port Authority assumed control of construction from developer Silverstein Properties after years of negotiations. Truckload by truckload, 1.5 million cubic yards of soil were removed from the east side of the site alone — enough to fill the New York Giants’ stadium to the top.
During the excavation, Plate’s team uncovered a 17th century ship that had once transported goods from the Caribbean to New England. On harder days, they found human remains that had been missed.
You talk about ‘what did Manhattan College teach you?’ It taught us how to deal with life. And the different challenges life gives you.
“You talk about ‘what did Manhattan College teach you?’ It taught us how to deal with life. And the different challenges life gives you,” says Plate, whose workers immediately stopped out of respect for the lives lost before continuing excavation.
“But you have to fight the good fight,” he adds. “I’m very proud of my staff and Commissioner Sartor, my mentor, who’ve been by my side on very challenging days.”
Manhattan College has proven to be a vital link between Sartor and Plate, as well as with many Jaspers who are involved in the rebuilding.
“It makes life a lot easier,” says Sartor, a former board of trustees member. “Our mindset is similar, our value systems are similar, and that I point to Manhattan.”
While the Port Authority has faced much public scrutiny throughout the years for a lack of progress on the site, it’s their common values and focus that have kept Sartor’s and Plate’s compasses pointing true north, despite the setbacks.
“True north means caring about the people lost that day, and making sure every ounce of energy we have is put into providing something, building something that will truly honor them in a special way,” Plate explains.
In mid-June, the project hit a milestone that put reality in perspective: One World Trade Center was topped off with its final beam. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with governors Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the beam and gave their blessings.
“You look at a day like that and you actually pause for a moment and celebrate,” Plate says. “And quite frankly, we don’t celebrate a lot here because we continue to drive to do even better the next day.”
“From my perspective, it was just a tremendous sense of accomplishment,” Sartor adds. “I was very proud of Steve and his staff. They deserve the accolades that were associated with that topping-off ceremony.”
This Sept. 11, as the families of the victims gather to hear names read and bells tolled, they will have a new landscape surrounding them, beginning to take form. Sartor and Plate hope that the progress will give them something positive to reflect on.
“Yes, there’s sadness associated with it because of what happened there, but there’s a sense of pride in being able to rebuild for America,” Sartor says. “And that’s what drives Steve and myself to a large extent.”
“We’re not just rebuilding to heal the wounds for ourselves and for New York and New Jersey, but for the country and the world,” Plate adds. “We’re showing the evil-doers that good will persevere at the end, and we’ll make something even better than what was there before. We’re truly involved with a legacy project.”
Until their work is done, and perhaps for years afterward, Sartor and Plate will continue to co-author their book, changing history one page at a time.