Founding board set for W.T.C. Performing Arts Center

BY  ALINE REYNOLDS | The World Trade Center Performing Arts Center is one step closer to becoming a reality. Last week, National Sept. 11 Memorial President Joe Daniels announced the nomination of five founding board members for the P.A.C. — a necessary action taken to avoid potentially losing $100 million in funds that were previously earmarked for the creation of the center.

For the P.A.C.’s board of directors, National 9/11 Memorial Board Chair, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the other memorial board members, chose Christy Ferer, chief executive officer and founder of Vidicom; Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin; Silverstein Properties chief executive officer and president, Larry Silverstein; John Zuccotti, co-chairperson of Brookfield Office Properties; and Zenia Mucha, vice president of the Walt Disney Company. First Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris will also join the board, representing Bloomberg as an ex-officio board member, according to the Mayor’s press office.

The P.A.C. board, which will begin meeting in the coming weeks, is tasked with fundraising for the center as well as making collective decisions with respect to programming and expenses for the facility, according to the National 9/11 Memorial. The board will also finalize the P.A.C.’s location, the subject of heated discussion in recent years.

The board member appointments had to be made prior to Dec. 31, Daniels explained, in order to meet one of the requirements set out by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the agency handling the allocation and distribution of the federal funds. The $100 million grant, which was originally intended for utility companies that suffered economically from 9/11, was ultimately allocated to the P.A.C. in fall 2010.

“As you know, a performing arts center has been part of the W.T.C. Master Plan since its inception in 2003 as a key element in the revitalization of Lower Manhattan,” said Daniels in a Dec. 29 letter to L.M.D.C. President David Emil. “Over the past several years, the L.M.D.C., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the City of New York have worked in collaboration to develop a plan for making the P.A.C. a reality.”

The majority of the funds will finance the P.A.C.’s construction, while $1 million will go toward administrative operations, according to Emil. An additional $60 million previously designated for the P.A.C. will finance the design of the facility by architect Frank Gehry — one-sixth of which has already been spent.

Emil said of the P.A.C. board’s formation, “I believe the 9/11 attacks were in the broadest sense an attack on American culture, and that therefore it is important that American art and culture be represented on the site.”

Emil wouldn’t say whether the $100 million in funds would have been immediately reallocated to another project had the founding board of directors not been formed by the end of the year, though an L.M.D.C. spokesperson said that, historically, the agency has granted deadline extensions to certain funding recipients.

Menin, who helped secure the $100 million for the P.A.C., nevertheless applauded Bloomberg and the National 9/11 Memorial for selecting the P.A.C. board members by the Dec. 31 deadline.

“It shows the project is indeed a priority and has come from the backburner to the front burner,” said Menin. “Now that we have the founding member board in place, we need to [take] all the steps required to make this project happen.”

Menin continued, “I think it’s a very strong board, and I look forward to working with all of them. I think each board member brings particular expertise and vision to the board, and I’m very pleased and honored to be a part of it.”

The other board members could not be reached for comment by press time.

Menin, a strong proponent of the less costly Tower 5 site, the former Deutsche Bank building, said she wasn’t privy to recent discussions about the siting of the center, nor was she told exactly when the board would convene for the first time.

“It’s my understanding that the board will be charged with looking at the site location, but we have not been given any indication as to whether or not other options would indeed be considered or not,” said Menin. “If [the Tower 5 site] is not an option, then we will need to move forward with a current location.”

In a written statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he was “enormously pleased” about the board’s formation and, particularly, that the board includes a local community representative.

“This is a crucial step in our efforts to build the world-class cultural center that our Lower Manhattan community was promised,” said Silver. “I look forward to the board beginning the important work of raising the necessary funds to build this Performing Arts Center, which I know will be a crown jewel in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.”

The Joyce Theater is the center’s only current tenant slated to operate the 1,000-seat theater. A spokesperson for the theater couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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