Elevated park overlooking 9/11 Memorial opens

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NEW YORK (AP) — An elevated park that offers a new view to visitors at the World Trade Center opened Wednesday, built atop a security center that screens vehicles and overlooking the memorial to those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The one-acre Liberty Park, a $50 million project, is modeled after Manhattan's High Line — the abandoned railroad tracks that were transformed into one of the world's most visited green spaces. The park features the newly planted "Living Wall," a vertical garden.

"It's appropriate to have this place for people to recreate, reflect and have lunch," said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that owns the trade center site.

In addition, he said, New York's newest park is on top of the security center "that could have been a very ugly building." The park runs along the south side of the 16-acre World Trade Center site.

Underneath the park, the Vehicle Security Center screens trucks and other vehicles before they enter subterranean roads with loading docks crossing the entire trade center. Tour buses will be added sometime in the future.

The park was created by landscape architect Joseph Brown, with its most unusual feature being the Living Wall. The 25-by-336-foot green wall facing Liberty Street is covered with more than 22,000 plants in 826 soil-filled panels — from periwinkle, Japanese spurge and Baltic ivy to goldenstar, coral bells and winter creeper. The plants are kept watered by irrigation tubes with tiny weep holes.

Last month, a sapling grown from the horse chestnut tree outside Anne Frank's home in Amsterdam was planted in the park, alongside other trees, shrubs and perennials. The park surrounds the rising St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed when the twin towers collapsed, pierced by terrorist-piloted planes on Sept. 11, 2001.

The church gave up its original site to make way for the security center, and will also serve as a place of bereavement once completed in 2018. The Santiago Calatrava-designed edifice will glow at night through its white marble exterior, illuminating the park that's open to the public daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.