photo: Terry Schmidt 
photo: Mark Mozaffari

Another little mystery: From just north of West Broadway and Murray Street 11 September, the north and east sides of 7WTC, some lower floors aflame. From a few blocks north, the north side of 7WTC never appeared to be affected. The building afire in the background of the image at right is 6WTC.
Six months later: A 6000-gallon tank of diesel fuel was suspended between 7WTC floors one and two and smaller tanks were located on the fifth, seventh, and eighth floors, a condition that would have been illegal elsewhere in NYC, per Andrew Rice's 25 March 2002 NYObserver piece. Why was it there? Why else? To power Guiliani's folly, the ill-conceived, ill-fated bunker on the 23rd floor; its location on Port Authority property put it beyond the reach of the local fire code.
Six months later ...
Larry Silverstein, the politically plugged-in developer who leased the WTC from the Port Authority a few weeks before the attack, has been pushing aggressively since shortly after to begin building a new office tower at the 7WTC site. He denied initial reports that he planned to dedicate the proposed building 11 September 2002. The New York Observer had an interesting front page summary update on 25 March 2002, "Silverstein plan ready for site; payout on hold." Andrew Rice reported that Silverstein had almost all his ducks lined up to start building. Except ...

"Insurance industry insiders say that the one crucial component Mr. Silverstein needs in order to rebuild--the insurance proceeds--may not be a certainty. Mr. Silverstein's insurance company, Industrial Risk Insurers, refuses to say whether or when it will pay out. [...]

"Seven World Trade Center was supposed to be the easy one. Several factors convinced Mr. Silverstein to redevelop that building first. For one thing, he built it, and had operated it for years before he acquired a lease on the rest of the complex last July. It has a simpler ownership structure and a separate mortgage, from the Blackstone Group. And no one died there on Sept. 11. [...]

"Mr. Silverstein has been showing city and state officials a revamped design, which would allow him to meet community demands that the skyscraper [unlike the first 7WTC] not cut off Greenwich Street. The sketches, done by architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill [the firm that designed the undistinguished fallen 7WTC], show a 700-foot-tall, 1.6-million-square-foot building, a source close to the planning said. The slimmer design is actually about 300,000 square feet smaller than the old building. Details of the design were first reported in the Architectural Record. [...]

"An attorney close to the insurance situation, however, said that I.R.I. was examining the collapse of the building[. ...] The collapse of 7 World Trade Center [...] has proven a fascinating mystery to the engineers studying it, and has been the subject of a series of stories in The New York Times. No modern skyscraper of its size had ever collapsed due to fire before Sept. 11. Investigators studying the collapse say a number of diesel tanks located above ground level are the prime suspects in feeding the out-of-control blaze. They were installed in 1998 to provide emergency power to Mr. Giuliani's much-maligned (and, as it turned out, terribly located) emergency command center on the building's 23rd floor.

"According to city fire codes, such tanks are supposed to be at or below ground level and encased in concrete. The command center's 6,000-gallon tank was suspended between the first and second floors of the building. Other, smaller tanks were located on the fifth, seventh and eighth floors. A Fire Department memo obtained by The Times warned of a possible disaster due to the placement of the command center tank. But the Fire Department had limited leverage because the bunker was located on property owned by the Port Authority, which claims that as an independent government agency, it is not subject to city fire codes, a Fire Department source said.

"Mr. Silverstein operated the building at the time the tanks were installed. Subsequently, in June 2000, he took out a new insurance policy on the building with I.R.I. An insurance-company engineer toured the building before the policy was completed, a Silverstein source said.

"I.R.I. knew about the generators and the arrangements in the building before they underwrote the coverage, the source said, adding that all the work was done in conformity with Port Authority code requirements. Such diesel tanks, he said, are commonplace in office buildings.

"[I.R.I. spokesman Dean] Davison declined to comment on whether I.R.I. was examining the circumstances of the building's fall. The company has hired Alan Miller, a Boston insurance-law specialist, to handle the case, he said. Mr. Miller, who is also representing an insurance company suing Mr. Silverstein in a case related to the larger complex, likewise declined comment."

The gist of the rest of Rice's piece is that a court decision could go either way.

photo: NOAA
7WTC ruins from just under 3000 feet, 23 September.