The Station of Many Names: New York’s Oculus Hub is a Management Disaster

Management DisasterAfter a decade of delays and a few billion dollars over budget, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is now on the verge of completion. On March 2016, the 5,244 square meter New York landmark will finally see use. Was enduring 10 years of mismanagement worth the wait? New Yorkers as saying no. Resoundingly.

A Costly Animal

Dubbed by the New York Post as an ‘elephantine excess’, the 22-foot wide WTC Transport Hub is an eye-catching behemoth of a completely different species — and epoch. Two sets of alabaster spires protrude along the similarly barred exterior of the Oculus like a ‘kitsch stegosaurus’, as The New York Times writes. The saddest aspect of it all is that the Oculus was supposed to resemble a bird in flight.

The 119 by 44-meter white marble floor is completely empty. Not a seat, information kiosk, newsstand, or snack concession. Chief architect Santiago Calatrava’s shot at symbolism fell flat among the first individuals to view the long-anticipated ‘Calatrasaurus’. Surely, they have to run out of nicknames sometime.

The plan? Turn the empty space of the Oculus into an events venue. The New York Port Authority owns the 6.5-acre World Trade Center site, where the garish ‘institutional vainglory’ is located. Project management professionals from Pronamics agree that it does not take much foresight to see that forgoing station staples would not thrill any PATH station locals, especially with such an overblown budget and timeframe that builders could have avoided entirely.

Bittersweet Suppositions

A ‘civic monument’ is what the planners want the transport hub to be, unlike some icon predecessors like the neighbouring Grand Central Terminal. Pundits call the comparison a presumptuous advertisement. They say that, while the Oculus’ fishbone structure may draw oohs and aahs from tourists and first-time visitors, the ambitious project is far less functional than it needs to be to earn back its $4.4 billion price tag.

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Even the Port Authority thinks it may have gone too far in a few places. Executive director Patrick Foye calls the project a ‘boondoggle’, airing a sense of remorse when he told the press: ‘The cost of projects, big and small, matters — a lot. Whether due to unforeseen conditions, errors or misconduct, cost overruns consume precious resources and undermine public confidence’.

Whichever nickname sticks for the ego-infused World Trade Center Hub, it will stand as a binary monument of the city’s past and its worryingly foolhardy present. With careful, involved planning, the Oculus should have opened as a wondrous achievement, but instead it will ring hollow of a gaffe-filled decade funded by taxpayer money.