Friday, December 30, 2011

A $440 Million Spat Has Put Future of WTC Museum In Doubt

Leave it to the Port Authority of New York to find yet another way to slow down the reconstruction efforts at Ground Zero. This time, they're claiming that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation owes them $300 million. The Foundation, whose chairman is none other than Mayor Mike Bloomberg, claims that the Port Authority owes them $140 million. That's a $440 million spread, and one that has brought construction on the museum to a standstill.
The Port Authority, which is responsible for the construction of the museum, claims that the foundation owes it $300 million. The foundation claims that the authority actually owes it $140 million because of delays in the project.

The dispute has been simmering for some time, and the work slowdown was reported in November. Thursday, however, was the first time Mr. Bloomberg and other officials acknowledged that the discord would cause the museum not to open as planned.

“There is no chance of it being open on time,” the mayor said. “Work has basically stopped.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said recently on a radio program that the Port Authority was “on the verge” of suing the foundation, but the mayor and the Port Authority said on Thursday that negotiations were continuing.

“I’m sure we are going to work something out with the Port Authority,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “They’ve got a difficult budget situation. I’m sympathetic to that.”
The projected September 2012 opening of the museum is no longer feasible, and unless construction resumes quickly, an early 2013 opening would be in doubt as well.

The Port Authority, which has a long history of dragging its feet on reconstruction at Ground Zero, is up to its old tricks. It delayed reconstruction efforts for years while in spats with Silverstein Properties over building the Freedom Tower and then 2, 3, and 4 WTC. It delayed negotiations and reconstruction efforts for the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed just south of the WTC complex by the collapsing towers.

On top of that is the inability of the Port Authority to contain costs that are within its control. It is currently more than $1.2 billion over budget on the PATH hub construction (a $2.2 billion project that is now costing $3.4 billion and counting).

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