Volume 18 • Issue 29 | December 2 - 8, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Henry M. Paulson, Jr., C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs, Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Schumer at the firm’s groundbreaking ceremony in Battery Park City Tuesday.

Pols hail Goldman for building new headquarters

By Josh Rogers

Four years after the Civil War, Marcus Goldman went to 130 Pine St. to set up what was to become one of the world’s largest investment banks, Goldman Sachs. His eventual successor, Henry M. Paulson, Jr. said Tuesday that he wants the firm’s stay in Lower Manhattan to extend into the 22nd century.

“I hope this will be our headquarters for more than 100 years,” Paulson, Goldman’s C.E.O. and chairperson, said at a groundbreaking ceremony in Battery Park City. The 740-foot, 2.1 million-square-foot building will be catty-corner to the World Trade Center site, at West and Vesey Sts. and is expected to open in 2009.

The project, which many view as crucial to Downtown’s redevelopment, looked like it could be dead earlier this year and the ceremony drew almost all of New York’s most powerful politicians: Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose district includes the W.T.C. site.

“This was not always an easy process,” Pataki said. “There were days when we doubted whether Goldman Sachs was going to be on this site.” He said he never feared a move to New Jersey, but “they didn’t have to be in Lower Manhattan.”

Pataki said in May 2004 that the Goldman deal would be complete, but then the firm joined the growing opposition to his plan to build a tunnel under West St. and pulled out of the deal.

Speaker Silver, a tunnel opponent who lobbied Goldman to stay Downtown, said the tunnel was one of the most important reasons the deal was delayed. “It was the issue,” he told Downtown Express this week. “That and the fact that they found out the Freedom Tower could not be built as was originally proposed.”

He is happy to see the Goldman construction start, but he said the delays in burying the tunnel issue and repositioning the Freedom Tower further from West St. ended up costing taxpayers more money. Goldman was originally going to get $1 billion in tax-free Liberty Bonds, but that amount was increased by $650 million to entice Goldman to stay Downtown.

Paulson confirmed that concerns about the tunnel and the rest of the W.T.C. plan were major holdups to the deal.

After the Goldman and Freedom Tower setbacks, Pataki appointed his chief of staff, John Cahill, to oversee Lower Manhattan development and focus on convincing the bank to change its mind. The governor, Bloomberg and others at the ceremony said the Liberty Bonds and about $150 million in tax incentives will come back to the state and city many times over in added tax revenues.

But mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer cricticized the deal during his unsuccessful campaign. Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York said the incentives were wasted money since Goldman was most concerned about security. “We would have gotten this [tax revenue] money without the subsidies,” she said.

Linda Belfer, a longtime Battery Park City resident and the chairperson of the neighborhood’s Community Board 1 committee, said there will be short-term construction pain, but it was well worth it because the building will draw more people and much needed new retail stores. In addition, the firm’s presence will create pressure to improve pedestrian safety crossing West St., she said.

“They need to keep their people safe too,” said Belfer, who is confined to a wheelchair. “So Goldman will have a positive effect on the neighborhood.”

Goldman will also contribute $4.5 million for a neighborhood library and a community recreation center nearby in Tribeca.

Schumer said the building will not only create jobs for the wealthy, but also for the “poor immigrant out in Queens.”

“If Goldman builds here,” he added, “others will come and we need others to come.”

Josh@DowntownExpress.com


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