Pataki commits to Downtown timeline
By Josh Rogers
Above, the Libeskind W.T.C. site plan.
Responding to criticisms that the Lower Manhattan rebuilding efforts are proceeding too slowly, Gov. George Pataki last week released an extensive timeline of short and long-term goals, such as a new Greenmarket, which will open across the street from the World Trade Center site this summer, and the last piece a Downtown link to J.F.K. Airport and the Long Island Rail Road in 2013.
Rebuilding Lower Manhattan cannot be an elusive promise reserved for another generation or a distant tomorrow, Pataki told a standing-room-only crowd at an Association for a Better New York luncheon in Battery Park Citys Ritz-Carlton.
The speech appeared to be a direct answer to a memo written in March by the C.E.O.s of three of Downtowns largest employers, American Express, Merrill Lynch, and the Bank of New York, emphasizing the importance of setting dates to make improvements in Lower Manhattan.
It is also difficult to overstate the damage that further silence and delay in decision-making will cause, said the memo to the New York City Partnership, made up of the citys largest businesses.
The C.E.O.s are thrilled with the governors commitment, said Kathryn Wylde, president and C.E.O. of the Partnership. They asked for a short- and long-term timeline, and he has provided it.
Tim Carey, president and C.E.O. of the Battery Park City Authority and a longtime friend of Pataki, said the media was also an important audience for the speech. Carey, who walked into the banquet hall with Pataki, said later that reporters now have an easy way to evaluate the success of the rebuilding plans. Youll be able to see whether they will be able to do what they can say they can do, Carey said, before quickly adding that the B.P.C.A. was part of the they and he was confident the authority, which reports to Pataki, would meet the goals.
Within the next year, Pataki called for $50 million in immediate improvements to come out of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. budget, including the Greenmarket at Liberty Park Plaza, a covered pedestrian bridge over Vesey St. at an unspecified cost, improvements to the pedestrian bridge over Liberty St., $10 million for unspecified small parks in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Tribeca and other neighborhoods, up to $3 million so that the Millennium High School can open on Broad St. this September, $4 million to help the Downtown Alliance complete its design to improve the look of the streets along lower Broadways Canyon of Heroes parade route, aesthetic improvement to the barricades blocking the streets around the New York Stock Exchange, and a mural to cover the unsightly black netting shrouding the Deutsche Bank, which was badly damaged by the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001.
Not all of the projects have been identified and the costs for others have not been estimated but Pataki promised most would be done in six months and all of them will be completed within one year. We cant wait any longer.
As for plans for ground zero, Pataki stuck to the previously announced schedule in which the Wedge of Light public plaza designed by Daniel Libeskind and the structure for the subsurface memorial near the W.T.C. protective slurry wall will be complete by the fifth anniversary of the attack. In addition, he dubbed Libeskinds 1,776-foot building the Freedom Tower and said the top would also be completed by Sept. 11, 2006. Pataki said the governors New York City office would move from Midtown to the building in 2008 when the building is finished, although that will be two years after his third term expires. Pataki told reporters later he was not ruling a fourth run for governor in or out.
Pataki made his strongest endorsement to date for building a short tunnel under the portion of West St. between Vesey and Liberty Sts., and for building some type of rail link to J.F.K. and the L.I.R.R.
West St. will become Downtowns signature boulevard a distinguished stretch rather than a barren divide, Pataki said. Adjacent to the World Trade Center site, a new short tunnel
will divert loud, fast-moving traffic underground to protect the dignity of the memorial, while also providing an elegant welcome at the front door of the World Financial Center.
The $900-million tunnel has been endorsed by many Downtown businesses and some local residents who view the tunnel as a way to smooth the connection between B.P.C. and the rest of Lower Manhattan. Some residents oppose the tunnel because they feel the entrance and exit ramps would be unsafe and unsightly and they are concerned about construction disruptions and costs.
Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, shares the concerns about costs, but he thinks the tunnel would be an improvement for residents if it doesnt take away from higher priorities. He said the roadway was the one area which we dont yet have agreement [with the governor]
. We think more work needs to be done and we need to evaluate the costs of that against other priorities.
Without looking at the overall costs, we think the short tunnel makes a fair amount of sense, Doctoroff said. Our hope is we will be able to come up with the money for whatever we need in order to get that done and the other priorities as well.
John Dellaportas, one of the tunnel opponents, said the main beneficiary of the tunnel would be Brookfield Financial Properties, which owns the World Financial Center offices and retail spaces adjacent to West St. Ultimately, it is up to the taxpayers and whether they want a billion-dollar tunnel to create a green lawn for a shopping center
. We are not going to allow it to happen.
Dellaportas, a B.P.C. resident, said he found 99 percent of the speech to be positive including the proposal for trees along the lower tip of West St. everything except the tunnel.
Both C. Virginia Fields, borough president of Manhattan, and Councilmember Alan Gerson said there should have been more public discussion before a decision was made about a tunnel.
Carey said it is now up to the authority and the state Dept. of Transportation to explain how this will be done in the least disruptive way possible. The highway will remain open and most of the tunnel construction will be done under a platform, which will limit the noise, said Carey. All of the options have been studied, and this is the one that needs to go forward.
J.F.K. and L.I.R.R.
Pataki joined the calls of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and many Downtown firms who say there is a need to connect Lower Manhattan to the airports and the L.I.R.R. The governor said all of the relevant agencies would review the options for a J.F.K. link and pick the best one, a year from now. The greatest public investment we can make in our future is to revamp Lower Manhattans antiquated transportation infrastructure into a 21st century integrated system, he said.
After an option is chosen, it will trigger an environmental review. By the conclusion of the environmental review, we will identify all of the resources to fund it and we will build it, said Pataki.
One of the two options under consideration is to build a new rail tunnel from the new transit hub at the W.T.C. to Downtown Brooklyn and link it with existing commuter tunnels. Madelyn Wils, who is on the L.M.D.C.s transportation committee, said this option, which Bloomberg is leaning towards, now looks like it will cost between $4.7 and $5.3 billion a billion more than the mayor estimated when he announced his plan last December. Wils and many others say this is undoubtedly the most convenient option, but it could turn out to be too expensive.
The other option, proposed by Brookfield, would take advantage of unused subway tunnels and run a commuter super shuttle through the subway at an estimated cost of $2 billion.
Carl Weisbrod, president of the Downtown Alliance, said he was thrilled the governor is making such a strong commitment to transportation. Weisbrod, who is also an L.M.D.C. board member, said in order to pay for all of the necessary transportation improvements, the best place to look was in shifting some of the $21 billion that President Bush and Congress approved to help Lower Manhattan rebuild after 9/11.
The first place to look at is within the $21 billion that has been allocated for Lower Manhattan, said Weisbrod.
South Ferry subway
Wils and Weisbrod expressed different degrees of skepticism about Patakis call to refurbish the South Ferry 1,9 subway station with money geared for Lower Manhattan. The $400 million project by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which Pataki controls, would extend the length of the station to allow all subway cars to open and to speed up the entire line by building a faster turnaround.
Im not a fan of the South Ferry option, said Wils. Its not a project that will bring more people into Lower Manhattan.
Weisbrod said: My preference would have been to fund it out of the M.T.A.s capital budget.
Pataki, however, said, the station improvements will reduce commuting times on the 1 and 9 lines to and from Midtown and for Staten Island residents
. A plan that does not jeopardize any of our valuable parkland.
The original plan to refurbish South Ferry included using up a large part of Battery Park. Patakis speech appeared to indicate Battery Park would be completely safe from the subway project, but Pat Kirshner of the Battery Conservancy, said Peter Kalikow, the M.T.A.s chairperson, sent the conservancy a letter this week saying the project is virtually outside of Battery Park and within the footprints of the existing station.
Kirshner said much of the stations footprints are under the park. We look forward to talking with the M.T.A. to work this out, said an optimistic Kirshner.Spokespersons for the M.T.A. did not return calls seeking comment.
Many residents had a favorable reaction to Patakis short-term measures. Catherine Hughes, who lives a block away from the W.T.C., said she was happiest to hear the centers Greenmarket would be returning this summer to Liberty Plaza.
I was very excited to hear about the Greenmarket, said Hughes. If they get it in time for strawberry season, that will be terrific. I used the market at the World Trade Center religiously every Tuesday and Thursday.
She was concerned to hear about the idea of covering the black Deutsche building on Liberty St. in murals depicting Libeskinds renderings of the proposed W.T.C. site. Almost 20 months after the attack, Deutsche still has not decided whether or not to demolish or repair its damaged building because the firm has not come to an agreement with its insurance companies.
Are they expecting the indecision to take that long, Hughes asked. Thats an awful lot of money to spend to temporarily hide a 60-story building.
One business leader said Deutsche appears to have reached agreement with two of its four insurers and that Pataki probably felt compelled to propose some plan for Deutsche, but that it was more likely Deutsche would settle with all of its insurers before a mural is put up.
Its silly, said the leader, who requested anonymity. The mural will never go up.
Pataki also proposed a state-issued discount card to shop in participating Lower Manhattan stores and a plan to improve the look of the blocked-off streets around the Stock Exchange within a year.
The measures we put in place to protect life, said Pataki, should not make it difficult to enjoy life.
He promised the plans are not destined for the archives
. This plan will be carried out.