Subway Gets in Near Freedom Tower’s Ground Floor

freedomtowerslide1 Subway Gets in Near Freedom Tower’s Ground Floor

One clear morning last week, an American flag rose above the expanse of scaffolding and steel that stretches across the World Trade Center construction site. With it rose a somewhat less iconic marker in the national consciousness: the green and yellow logo of the Subway sandwich chain. The yellow shipping container and soon-to-be sub shop bearing the twin emblems was hoisted by crane to its temporary fifth-floor home. The fast-food restaurant will continue to climb as each successive floor is laid.

Perched atop 1 World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, hundreds of steelworkers are being propelled skyward at the rate of a floor every one to two weeks. Amid engineering marvels and feats of technical ingenuity, it is lunch hour that presents the workers with an insoluble quandary. As the tower grows ever taller, a lunch hour jaunt to the sandwich shop down the street could fast become an arduous 45-minute journey each way, far exceeding the 30 minutes allotted workers for break.

Subway stepped in following a round of bidding in which it was the only eatery to forgo a guarantee of profit. Subcontracted by DCM Erectors, the steel company working on the site, the franchise agreed to undertake the enterprise at cost. DCM will subsidize any loss to Subway, which, as a kind of vertically propelled billboard, will also garner some unrivaled advertising from the arrangement.

Comprised of three stacked levels and a total of nine containers, the restaurant will feature all its usual amenities (kitchen for baking bread, eating area, restrooms) and a few distinctive ones (a particularly ambitious composting unit, for instance, which will limit the need for vertical treks of waste disposal). The restaurant, set to open by the end of January, will veer slightly from its standard fare of footlong heroes, adding New York staples such as hot dogs and pretzels to the menu.

Tower 1 will eventually hit 105 stories, becoming the highest point in the city. And, for a while at least, Subway will share the distinction. Just 100 more stories to go.

egeminder@observer.com