Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 110

So, Silverstein and Pataki are working on a backchannels deal over how to proceed on the WTC redevelopment. That's not surprising. Pataki has to get progress or else his legacy is going to be forever intertwined with an empty pit.
On Friday, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democratic candidate for governor, said the Freedom Tower could easily turn into a white elephant because it lacked "economic viability." He blamed the problem on Governor Pataki, who insisted that the tower be built first, against Mr. Silverstein's advice.

Governor Pataki dismissed Mr. Spitzer's criticism yesterday, saying, "The Freedom Tower is a very important part of showing our country and the world that New York is not afraid to build tall." He said, "We believe it can be done in an economically viable way, as can the redevelopment of all of Lower Manhattan."

If the Port Authority takes control of the Freedom Tower, the Pataki administration expects to move state, city and federal agencies into the building.

The deal now under discussion would have the Port Authority take control of the Freedom Tower and what is known as Site 5, at Greenwich and Cedar Streets, where the heavily damaged Deutsche Bank building awaits razing. The authority believes that the site, which would face Liberty Park, could be sold to a residential developer for as much as $350 million.

But the authority wants assurances that the land will be transferred from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and that it will be zoned for housing. It also wants to reach an agreement with Mr. Silverstein for a shopping mall that would comprise the lower floors of two office towers he would build at Church and Cortlandt Streets.

The Bloomberg administration and the authority view the mall as important in establishing a vibrant street life in the neighborhood. Mr. Silverstein has resisted that, in part because it would require him to build a "sky lobby" for the corporate tenants on possibly the fifth level rather than the ground floor.
There are still countless issues that need to be worked out, and one has to wonder why Fiterman Hall hasn't even come up in the range of problems facing Lower Manhattan redevelopment. It's sitting as an empty hulk adjacent to 7WTC, and it has to be demolished to make room for a new structure at the site. Fiterman Hall is part of CUNY and both Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki have a say in what happens to the building, yet neither has actually moved to take action on the building.

At least the Deutsche Bank building is slated to come down later this year after years of negotiations and a lengthy study of whether the building was salvagable.

These deals are necessary because the Libeskind plan was so out of touch with real property development needs for Lower Manhattan and all the sides were forced to deal with those constrictions despite the difficulties created by pushing the Freedom Tower to what is considered the least desirable section of the site where it would be the first built. That goes against the grain of what developers look for - they want to most desirable structures built first since those structures are easier to lease and makes it easier to build on less desirable sites since those sites become more desirable as demand picks up.

As if to further underscore the emotional and tortured rebuilding process in Lower Manhattan, additional pieces of human remains were found at the Deutsche Bank building site as the site was being prepped for deconstruction.
Construction workers cleaning toxic waste from a vacant skyscraper across from the World Trade Center site have found four more human body parts in the building, after finding 10 bone fragments on the rooftop last fall, officials said Tuesday.

The city medical examiner's office will once again extract DNA from the remains recovered from the former Deutsche Bank building and try to match it against a database of the 2,749 people killed at the trade center on Sept. 11, 2001, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city medical examiner's office.

Fire Department officials searched the building for remains before, but more are being discovered because the building is being cleaned so thoroughly as construction workers prepare to dismantle it, said John Gallagher, spokesman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
Flyers have been posted in some PATH stations, and nothing official appears on the PATH website as yet, but there will be changes to PATH weekend service to the WTC station from Hoboken beginning April 9. The changes are part of long term construction at Ground Zero. I will have more information as it becomes available.

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