NEW YORK – Even the symbol of new beginnings at ground zero wasn't immune from the realities of redesign and renegotiation. The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower, the soaring skyscraper that will replace the fallen twin towers at the World Trade Center, was quietly and temporarily removed from the site Friday, nearly two years after it was laid with much fanfare.
That July 4 ceremony was supposed to signal the start of construction. Instead, it initialized years of hand-wringing and argument over the building's design.
Authorities finally concluded that the cornerstone would need to be moved. Its location was made obsolete by the building's reconfiguration.
The 20-ton stone, laid near the temporary train station that now dominates the ground zero pit, was hauled away to Hauppauge, N.Y.
The 5 1/2-foot-tall block of granite, quarried from the Adirondack Mountains and inscribed with words calling it a "tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom," will stay at Innovative Stone for up two years before returning to the World Trade Center site.
Innovative Stone, which cut and inscribed the cornerstone, plans to make it available for viewing by appointment.
The Freedom Tower was redesigned last year due to security concerns. Among them, police said it might not withstand a truck bomb. Its edge was shifted about 40 feet westward, which left the cornerstone outside the would-be building.
Construction on the 1,776-foot tower, the tallest of five planned skyscrapers, began in April after months of contentious negotiations over control of the site.
The standoff involved the governors of New York and New Jersey, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and private developer Larry Silverstein, who had signed a 99-year lease to rent the twin towers just weeks before they were destroyed.
Officials expect all five new towers to be built by 2012.
The cornerstone's removal will allow a foundation subcontractor to begin excavating the east side of the site in preparation for underground infrastructure.