Times’ developer seeks 9/11 funds for Midtown

By Elizabeth O’Brien

The New York Times reported last week that its development partner has applied for $400 million in Liberty Bond financing to construct the newspaper’s new Midtown headquarters.

As part of its post-9/11 economic stimulus plan, Congress allocated up to $8 billion of these tax-exempt bonds, largely for the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. While up to $2 billion in bonds can be used for commercial projects outside the area south of Canal St., some community leaders blasted the idea of using Liberty Bonds to help finance the new Times building on Eighth Avenue, between 40th and 41st Sts.

“I think it’s a flagrant misuse of Liberty Bonds to spend it on commercial buildings in Midtown,” said Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1, in a telephone interview. “The intent of Liberty Bonds was to rebuild Lower Manhattan and to help companies that needed to flee Lower Manhattan initially.”

Catherine Mathis, a spokesperson for The New York Times Company, referred all questions to Forest City Ratner, the company’s development partner. A spokesperson for Forest City Ratner did not return a call for comment.

Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, confirmed that the city had received an application for financing from Forest City Ratner. Patterson declined to comment on how or when the application would be evaluated.

Under the agreement between the Times Company and Forest City Ratner, The Times will own the 2nd through 27th floors of the 52-story tower, while the developer will own the remaining floors. The Times reported that Forest City Ratner has been unable to find a tenant for its share of the building, making it difficult to secure financing.

But The Times has already received $26.1 million in sales tax breaks and other subsidies for the project, the newspaper reported. Some were not sympathetic to the argument that the tower might not get built without Liberty Bond financing.

“If the market is not going to maintain that building, why should the taxpayers,” said Bettina Damiani, project director for Good Jobs New York, an advocacy group that evaluates economic developments.

Because of the flagging economy, the city has received far more applications for Liberty Bond financing for residential projects than it has for commercial developments.


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