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WTC Development Still a Mess

By Heather Grossmann | September 10, 2009 11:35am | Updated on September 10, 2009 10:11am
State Senators Bill Perkins and Daniel Squadron at a public hearing on the stalled World Trade Center development.
State Senators Bill Perkins and Daniel Squadron at a public hearing on the stalled World Trade Center development.
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Neither the looming specter of the eighth anniversary of 9/11, nor the pleas of lower Manhattan residents were enough to bring the parties involved in the World Trade Center redevelopment any closer to an agreement yesterday.

“We need our broken heart fixed as soon as possible,” said Catherine McVeigh Hughes, vice chairman of Community Board 1, at the public hearing on the issue.  “The terrorists will have won if we can’t rebuild this in a reasonable amount of time.”

State Senators Bill Perkins and Daniel Squadron, who presided over the hearing, questioned representatives for developer Larry Silverstein, the Port Authority and the Office of the Mayor in their attempt to untangle the juggernaut of the stalled development.

But the parties present only touted their own achievements on the project and took turns lobbing the blame back and forth with no tangible forward progress.

Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority, said that thanks to the efforts of his agency, this will be the first 9/11 anniversary that families will be able to look down into the memorial reflection pool—a feat he said did not seem possible a year ago.

Ward said that Port Authority had already turned over towers two, three and four as construction ready to Silverstein Properties and that the clock was now ticking on their side. He chastised Silverstein Properties for their requests for guaranteed financing from the Port Authority, saying that the public should not be asked to take on risk that the private sector will not take on themselves.

The representative from Silverstein Properties, Janno Lieber, talked up the success of 7 World Trade Center, completed in 2006. He said that his company had been ready to start construction on the other towers when they heard that “every project for which the Port is responsible had fallen years behind schedule and hundreds of million dollars over budget, threatening the entire WTC rebuilding effort.”

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber said that without imminent cooperation between Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority, there is a risk that the central components of the project would need to be redesigned and potentially redeveloped, causing even greater delays and costs.

A Quinnipiac Poll released at the end of August said that the majority of voters do not believe the 9/11 Memorial will be ready for the ten year anniversary of the attacks.

“This week for the eighth time since that harrowing day, the eyes of the world will be on the World Trade Center site again, and for the eighth time the world will see no towers, no rebuilt streets on the site, no retail, no museum, no open space,” Lieber said.

“We owe it to the nation, we owe it to New York, we owe it to the people who lost their lives here, to get past this impasse and get back to work rebuilding this site.”