A film debuting tonight on PBS tells the inside story of the ongoing rebuilding of the World Trade Center, and both the massive construction project and the film itself have strong New Jersey ties.
“Engineering Ground Zero” airs at 9 p.m. on PBS’s “Nova” program. The one-hour documentary is a production of Part2Pictures, and lists Anthony Cicatiello and Tim Smith as co-executive producers.
Cicatiello is president of the Research and Development Council of New Jersey and chairman of CN Communications, in Newark. Smith is a New Jersey native who now works for the cable news channel MSNBC.
Cicatiello said he Smith had made films together before, including a film on the life of former Gov. Thomas Kean, and a documentary about education reform. It was Smith who first suggested the engineering behind the 1 World Trade Center project might make a good film subject. The two approached the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center, then put together a proposal for “Nova.”
“We knew it would interest ‘Nova,’ because they’re always looking at the science and engineering part of what goes on in the world,” Cicatiello said.
That was in 2008. Filming began in 2009 and continued through to this year, with some last-minute filming taking place as late as this summer.
Smith said 1 World Trade Center — the building currently under construction to replace the Twin Towers — is unique not only because of its historical significance, but also because of its construction.
He said the concrete is about four times stronger than that of a typical building — stronger even than the concrete of the Hoover Dam. The building also has many green-design elements.
Cicatiello said he and the film’s crew had to find a balance — providing an insider’s viewpoint while also understanding the security concerns inherent to the project.
“We were very sensitive to all those things,” he said. “They were very open and candid in talking about security and some of the issues related to that.”
While the film provides a window into the ongoing construction of 1 World Trade Center, it also details the construction of the 9/11 Memorial at ground zero. The site features trees grown at Halka Nursery, in Millstone, and plaques made at Service Metal Fabricating, which has its headquarters in Rockaway. Both companies are featured in the film.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology signed on as a sponsor of the film.
In a press release about the school’s involvement, NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch said the school’s mission is technological education and research, and its graduates are leaders in the types of disciplines needed to rebuild at ground zero.
“They solve problems, design and create,” he said. “In short, they do the kind of work that will be dramatically showcased in ‘Engineering Ground Zero.'”
Smith said even as the film documents the aftermath of a tumultuous moment in U.S. history, the rebuilding of the site ends up being an uplifting experience.
“It’s a really affirming, upbeat story, because they’re building this great building, and the memorial is a very impressive concept,” Smith said. “They’re building something, not taking it down. It was a very positive story, so it was good in that respect.”