WTC Fight and the NYT
Eliot Brown March 11, 2010, 10:45 a.m.
The back of Thursday’s Times A-section is torn over the World Trade Center fight.
There is a Times editorial defending the Port Authority and saying it should not be using its money to back financing on a speculative office tower, as the city and developer Larry Silverstein have demanded.
On the opposite page: an op-ed from Mayor Bloomberg and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, jointly calling on the Port Authority to put up more money.
The two pieces come at a critical time, when the parties are in intense talks to try to bridge a gap and get a financing plan that would allow for two towers to rise—with the financial backing of the public sector—in addition to the one fully publicly-financed and built tower rising on the other end of the site (One World Trade Center). An arbitration panel set a deadline of Friday for the parties to reach a deal, although one would think the panel would extend that date if requested, given that it has shown no willingness to dictate a solution at the site.
Port Authority executive director Chris Ward, speaking Thursday morning at a New York Building Congress breakfast, suggested talks were making some headway. “I think we’ve made progress,” Mr. Ward told reporters.” “There is a sense of a common goal.”
The arguments of the mayor and Mr. Silver are familiar: It’s not in the Port Authority’s long-term interest to leave part of the site a hole, and it should further prioritize the project. They attacked the agency’s “continued intransigence” in the op-ed:
Delays at the site have already cost the Port Authority tens of millions of public dollars. Not only would further delays cost much more, but rent proceeds from a thriving World Trade Center would provide money for the Port Authority’s other transportation projects around the city, including Moynihan Station and a new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
The editorial was more forgiving, arguing that the “last thing a battered downtown needs is a nest of empty office buildings” given the rising vacancy rates, particularly ones that are subsidized:
The ring of skyscrapers was a dynamic part of the architect Daniel Libeskind’s original master plan for the site. Given the right market conditions, they may someday appear. But the Port Authority should not be obliged to provide what the market and Mr. Silverstein cannot. It must keep its finances safe for the region’s transportation facilities and concentrate on making sure that the memorial is available to visitors by Sept. 11, 2011.