Crowds of people waited anxiously Thursday afternoon to take those first steps into the newly built World Trade Center Transportation Hub Oculus — which is now partially opened to the public.
A few minutes after 3 p.m. the doors of the state-of-the art facility — designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava — opened to the public. The March 3 opening will give about 100,000 riders who use the PATH the ability to enter at the corner of Liberty and Church streets.
From the outside visitors see Calatrava’s vision, according to Reuters, of a dove being released into the air from a child’s hand — symbolizing the rebuilding of a terminal that was destroyed during the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Lower Manhattan soon will have an architecturally visionary 21st century rail station, combined with world-class retail shops, that will be a focal point for downtown commerce,’’ said Scott Rechler, Port Authority vice chairman, in a statement. “The board of commissioners salutes those whose years of toil finally brought this project to fruition. They have created an iconic structure for generations of New Yorkers, commuters and visitors.”
While standing in the transportation hub’s main section — below a glass roof bringing in natural light — visitors filled the hall taking photos, and selfies, and documented the opening.
Martin Oppenheim, from Forest Hills, Queens, was stunned by the design and said just looking at it made him smile — especially after remembering the “dark moments” following the attacks more than a decade ago.
“If something beautiful comes out of it, it’s wonderful,” Oppenheim said. “It’s fabulous, I think it’s amazing.”
Architect and Manhattan resident Andre Hurni also voiced his love for the design and said it was similar to transit hubs he had seen throughout Europe.
“I think it’s enlightening for downtown New York,” Hurni said. “I think we should be proud of the building and see the positive side.”
Tyler Harris, from Astoria, Queens, said he heard about the opening through Instagram and took the trip to see the opening of the hub.
“It looks cool, its very futuristic,” Harris said.
However, some visitors said that although the site looked really nice, they believe the $4 billion price tag — which according to Reuters was twice the estimate unveiled in 2004 for the hub — was just too much.
“As a New Yorker, I feel frustrated that we spent $4 billion on this thing,” said Brooklyn resident Jessica Weddle. “I think it looks like a dinosaur from the outside…The symbolism is not there.”
Doug Burke, who lived in Manhattan for decades and now lives in Westchester, added that he found the site to be “interesting” and liked the “zooming effect” of the design but thinks the money could have been used elsewhere.
“For a few hundred million they could have built something beautiful and spent the other money on other human needs,” Burke said.
Clement Malgouyres who was visiting from France said it was by far the most enormous transit hub he had seen and although it fits well in the area, he also sees the cost as a problem.
“For use of public money, I see it’s a little extreme,” Malgouyres said. “How is it an homage to the victims? It looks good but many other things could have worked good.”
In the upcoming weeks, the eastern entrance to the Oculus will open, giving customers access to Church Street and the Fulton Street Transit Center. In the late spring the access from Vesey and Church Streets will open.