December 5, 2005
This fall, progress on a few construction
projects at Ground Zero continued to crawl, while the real
action seemed to be in the offices of local politicians. New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appears to be getting ready
for a fight with New York Governor George Pataki over the
fate of proposed office space here. Meanwhile, the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey, which owns the property, continues
to assert itself over what will happen.
Work on Santiago Calatravas transit
station for the Port Authority has just gotten underway, while
the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, which oversees
funding on the memorial and cultural buildings, on December
5 announced that it had issued a request for proposals for
a memorial construction manager. The toxic Deutschebank Building
to the south is slowly being dismantled to make way for park
and office space. On November 29, Goldman Sachs, broke ground
for its Pei Cobb Freed Partners-designed headquarters, just
northwest of Ground Zero.
But most dramatic is the developing struggle
between Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki. During his first
term, Bloomberg focused on a failed bid to develop a stadium
on New Yorks West Side, and mostly deferred to Pataki
regarding development at the World Trade Center site. He changed
that stance in late October, just before his reelection, when
he told the New York Daily News editorial board that he would
prefer to see more residential development on the site. Currently
the site is slated to include about 10 million square feet
of office space. Bloomberg also told the board that the city
would be better served by removal of developer Larry Silverstein
who owns the right to build the Pataki-backed Freedom Tower.
In mid-November, Bloomberg named six new members to the Lower
Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) board of directors.
Four of the new appointees are senior advisers to the mayor.
Pataki subsequently appointed three of his backers to the
board. The LMDC is a joint state-city corporation that oversees
rebuilding in Lower Manhattan. Its board has 16 members, eight
appointed by the mayor, and eight by the governor.
Pataki has since backed away from his
long-held position that all of the space lost when the World
Trade Center towers collapsed should be rebuilt, telling the
Post, I dont know that 10 million is the magic
number. Im not going to project where things might be
with office space demand, five, 10 years from now.
As the mayor and governor positioned
themselves for a face-off, the Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey (PA) has been flexing its own muscles. In mid-November,
the PA said it will reduce the size of the chiller plant it
is constructing to service the site. This means that Silverstein
will have to construct his own chillers to service the Freedom
Tower and other office buildings at the site, increasing the
cost for his project reportedly by as much as $100 million.
A few days later the PA released plans to develop up to 550,000
square feet of retail at the Trade Center along Church Street,
at the bases of towers 2, 3, and 4, which have yet to be designed.
The development would replace the World Trade Centers
original retail mall, which, PA chairman Anthony Coscia pointed
out in a statement, was one of the most successful in
the country. At the same time, the PA offered to assume
control of construction of the World Trade Center Memorial,
and to cover any cost overruns. The offer would streamline
building on the complex PA-owned site. But some point out
that the WTC Memorial Foundations fundraising efforts
would be hurt if the public perceives that the memorials
costs could be absorbed by the PA. Others say it would be
unwise for the foundation to give up control over the construction,
even as cost estimates have gone as high as $800 million.