NEW YORK - The crowning spire of the World Trade Center's tallest building arrived in New York on Tuesday - in giant steel pieces on a barge that floated in past the Statue of Liberty.

"It signifies that we're back, we're better than ever, and it shows the resilience of not just New York, but also people in general," said Steven Plate, the director of post 9/11 construction at the lower Manhattan trade center. "The spire is a candle on the cake."

He spoke aboard a boat that followed the barge into New York Harbor from New Jersey's Port Newark.

For these nine parts of the spire too heavy to be driven in, Tuesday marked the end of a 1,500-nautical-mile journey that started in Canada on Nov. 16.

A plant outside Montreal helped produce a total of 18 pieces to be erected atop One World Trade Center, rising into the Manhattan sky by spring to complete the 1,776-foot high-rise. The heaviest piece of spire weighs nearly 70 tons.

Symbolizing America's freedom, it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Plate said.

"I feel very emotional about this, very proud," he said as he watched the barge move toward the gleaming skyscraper expected to open in 2014. "When I look at this site, I see ordinary people doing extraordinary things."

The remaining nine pieces of the 408-foot, $20 million spire are being trucked in from Canada and South Plainfield, N.J., the location of another plant in the coproduction.

The spire is a joint venture between the ADF Group Inc. engineering firm in Terrebonne, Quebec, and New York-based DCM Erectors Inc., the prime steel contractor for the tower.

As the barge docked at a pier on the Hudson River, workers on the roof of the 104-story skyscraper were pouring the concrete base that will encircle the spire - to be erected in what is now an empty round socket.