Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New York and Region

Developer's Pace at 7 World Trade Center Upsets Some

Published: January 31, 2002

Larry A. Silverstein's Fifth Avenue boardroom is awash in the developer's hopes, dreams and architectural drawings for rebuilding the World Trade Center.

On the table is an elaborate model of a glass office tower cantilevered over Greenwich Street, the site of 7 World Trade Center, the 47-story skyscraper he built next to the twin towers that was also destroyed in the September attack. Mr. Silverstein, who bought control of the trade center complex two months before the attack, said he hoped to begin construction at 7 World Trade Center by June, with the proceeds of an $861 million insurance policy.

The developer's plans are seen by some as a sign of renewal downtown, and by others as a rush to get into the ground before civic groups, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the families of victims and survivors of the attack can impose an overall development plan.

But the developer, state officials and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say that Mr. Silverstein has a legal right to rebuild and, ultimately, he needs only the approval of the Port Authority, which owns the land. The separate 16-acre site of the twin towers to the south is another matter, because everyone -- even Mr. Silverstein -- agrees that there should be a substantial memorial built there.

At Greenwich Street, however, he is ready to go.

''We have an extraordinary opportunity to rebuild a tower we built 14 years ago,'' Mr. Silverstein said. ''This time around we want to make it spectacular, because it'll be the portal to the new World Trade Center.''

And while he will consult with the development corporation, he said, ''I think it just requires the approval of the Port Authority.''

Not everyone is thrilled with Mr. Silverstein's plans. And the dispute illustrates the murkiness over just who is in charge of the rebuilding effort. Gov. George E. Pataki appointed John C. Whitehead chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was created to coordinate the effort. But the land is owned by the Port Authority, which must also rebuild its PATH commuter rail system. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is eager to restore disrupted subway service. And everything sits in a city in which Michael R. Bloomberg was elected mayor.

''I think it all needs to be clarified,'' said Madelyn G. Wils, a director of the development corporation and the chairwoman of the local community board. ''If everybody is unwilling to compromise, then it's going to hold up the process.''

Ms. Wils and others would prefer that Mr. Silverstein slow down, until there is an overall plan for the area and decisions on whether to re-establish the street grid through the site and where to put the Con Edison substations that were beneath 7 World Trade Center.

''Ideally, 7 World Trade Center should be incorporated into the entire plan, whether it's the first building to be built or not,'' Ms. Wils said. ''Whatever is built there has to be built because it's what the community -- businesses, workers and residents -- needs, and it has to be spectacular. This is an opportunity like no other that has ever come before us.''

Ms. Wils's agency has taken steps to create a public consensus about the size and substance of a memorial on the site of the trade center by working with the families of the victims and other groups. It is just beginning to hire a staff and work on plans.

Yet the Port Authority and the transportation authority, which are both controlled, at least in part, by Governor Pataki, are well along in planning the rebuilding of the transportation network and the building of a new underground terminal. And the Empire State Development Corporation, the parent agency to the Lower Manhattan group, is in charge of government incentives to lure companies back downtown.

Mr. Silverstein, who with his partners paid $3.2 billion to control the 10.5-million-square-foot trade center complex, has hired the architect David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design a tower for Greenwich Street and conceptual plans for the twin towers site.


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