NY tower plans still grounded

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am

More than four years after September 11, the World Trade Centre site in Lower Manhattan is still a gaping void, and a combination of politics, greed and self-interested squabbling looks set to delay the project further.

The deadline for reaching an agreement on who would take control of rebuilding the site was March 14, and the project is still mired in uncertainty.

The blame for the delay is being laid on Larry Silverstein, whose Silverstein Properties had signed a 99-year lease for the complex seven weeks before the towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

Mr Silverstein had negotiated with the site's owners, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to give him control over rebuilding the trade centre if it was ever damaged.

A sense of crisis has been created by a report issued by the city claiming that Mr Silverstein would not be able to sustain the project after 2009, with the suggestion that he would default on his lease.

In an attempt to get things moving, New York State Governor George Pataki imposed a March 14 deadline for Mr Silverstein and the Port Authority to resolve their differences in time for an April groundbreaking of the US$2 billion Freedom Tower.

Senator Chuck Schumer has told all sides that 'to break deadlock at Ground Zero, every party must give up something', and has asked 'the Port Authority, Silverstein Properties and the City of New York, to make sacrifices in order to get construction finally moving'.

Senator Schumer's efforts to provide a solution have been greeted with a lack of enthusiasm, however. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's reaction was that there was not 'enough money to make this project move forward', and Mr Silverstein's reported last-ditch request last week for additional tens of millions of dollars in extra concessions has apparently prompted the Port Authority's executive director Kenneth Ringler to pronounce the negotiations to be 'over', with the deadline passed.

With only weeks to go before the scheduled groundbreaking, the public must wonder when the Freedom Tower will finally take its place in the Manhattan skyline.