NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers and tourists got their first look inside a $3.9 billion transportation hub at the World Trade Center site on Thursday as officials opened one entrance to the cathedral-like pavilion.
The partial opening comes after years of delays and cost overruns. The hub was originally budgeted at $2 billion with a target completion date of 2009. Rising costs have been blamed on factors including architect Santiago Calatrava's demands and the logistical complexity of building it while the Sept. 11 memorial and office towers were also under construction.
"We really hope from the bottom of our hearts that New Yorkers embrace it and love it," said Calatrava, who shook hands with workers.
"I think it's absolutely spectacular," said one New Yorker, Jay Singer, 50. "It's the most amazing steel construction I have seen since I watched the twin towers being built as a small boy."
"I think it's beautiful," said another, Chrissa Chappell, 41, a professor of English at Lehman College in the Bronx. "Maybe it can be an example to the rest of the country."
The structure with its massive steel wings is supposed to evoke a bird in flight. The grand hall, known as the Oculus, is a soaring space with a skylight where the bird's spine would be.
Calatrava and his supporters say the facility will justify its price tag by taking its place as one of New York's most compelling pieces of public architecture. Calatrava called the hub "a monument of faith in this city" during a tour last month.
But Patrick Foye, the outgoing executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, has criticized the station as "a symbol of excess."
The station is replacing one that was destroyed along with the twin towers in 2001.
When it is completed, the hub will connect Port Authority Trans-Hudson trains to New Jersey with 11 New York City subway lines and ferry service. Shops and restaurants are scheduled to open this summer.
The Port Authority says it will hold a ceremony this spring when all the entrances to the hub are open.