What We Need to Get Ground Zero Rebuilt

Somebody needs to compromise to end the stalemate

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As we approach the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Ground Zero still lies fallow. None of the grand schemes for the site have been realized, and the situation lies in stalemate. Larry Silverstein, the developer who leased the World Trade Center before its destruction and is supposed to rebuilt the site with help from the Port Authority, wants more public money. The Port Authority wants him to use more of his own cash. It also opposes his proposal to build three new office buildings, arguing that the market has little appetite for new office real estate, which could cause the buildings to lie empty. An arbitration panel has given the two parties till Friday to figure things out. Who's right, and how should this be resolved?

  • Port Authority Right on Money, but Build the Memorial, Please "The Port Authority," says the New York Times editorial board, "should not be obliged to provide what the market and Mr. Silverstein cannot. It must keep its finances safe for the region's transportation facilities and concentrate on making sure that the memorial is available to visitors by Sept. 11, 2011." The editors also say Silverstein should give the memorial priority over the "4 million square feet of extra commercial office space."
  • Port Authority Right: Can't Risk Taxpayer Dollars The New York Daily News says Silverstein is essentially asking the Port Authority to act as his banker, since private sources of credit are hard to come by right now. Impatient with Silverstein, the editors repeat their "mantra" since June: "Invest the least possible amount of public funds."
  • Port Authority Wrong--Silverstein Is the Reasonable One, insist Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York State Assembly. They argue in The New York Times that Silverstein has been "receptive" to a compromise they earlier proposed, while the Port Authority resisted. Their plan: ask "Mr. Silverstein to invest significantly more equity and take on more risk, and the Port Authority to provide more temporary credit assistance to move construction forward on both towers." The Port Authority is only hurting itself, they say, since "delays at the site have already cost [it] tens of millions of public dollars."
  • Both Parties Need to Give True/Slant's Elie Mystal, a frustrated New Yorker, lays down four points to resolve the situation. Among them are that Silverstein should pay up: "Right now he owns a hole in the ground. Soon he'll own the most important building in America. My buddy Vinnie could make money with a front like that. So can Silverstein." Also, Mystal thinks the Port Authority should shut up about the office building problem: "When I want real estate market advice, I'll ask just about anybody other than somebody who runs a bus station." He also requests that every politician other than Bloomberg mind their own business and unions keep out of the mess unless they can rebuild the site in under 5 years--the time it took to build the original World Trade Center.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.