Volume 16 • Issue 23 | November 4 - 10, 2003

W.T.C. plans on track, Pataki says

By Josh Rogers

Pool photos by Associated Press

Charles Gargano, chairperson of the Empire State Development Corp., Developer Larry Silverstein, and Gov. Pataki toured the World Trade Center PATH station last week after Pataki’s speech. The station is set to reopen Nov. 23.

Six months after Gov. George Pataki laid out a detailed timetable for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, he returned to the scene of the speech to announce that virtually all of the deadlines have been met and to promise that Downtown progress will continue.

Just like his April 24 address at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City, Pataki once again had announcements about a school and a greenmarket. He said he would work with the mayor on opening a K-8 school in Lower Manhattan and he announced that the World Trade Center Greenmarket would return to ground zero by Nov. 23 when the PATH commuter trains come back to a temporary outdoor station at the site. Six months ago, Pataki pledged that the Millennium High School would open in September and the greenmarket would go temporarily to Liberty Plaza – both of which occurred.

The governor made several other announcements last Thursday at the Ritz:

*He said there would be a Downtown construction command center where every city and state agency overseeing a construction project south of Canal St. would provide staff and information to Lower Manhattan residents and workers

*Pataki backed away from his support of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s plan to use some tax-free Liberty Bonds for office buildings in Midtown and called for extending the application deadline beyond next year into 2009. “Should we need Liberty Bonds in the rebuilding effort, we must ensure they are available when we need them - and that Lower Manhattan remains the first priority, just as Congress intended,” he said.

*The governor softened his enthusiasm for building a $860-million vehicular tunnel under West St. and adjacent to the W.T.C. site — a project which has had a growing number of skeptics among some city officials and residents because they either think it is too costly or an ineffective way to improve pedestrian safety.

“I have no doubt that we will succeed,” Pataki said at the meeting of the Association for a Better New York. “When we needed to restore PATH service to Lower Manhattan, we moved heaven and earth. And when we needed to raise funds for a new high school, we moved hearts and minds.”

At least two major issues remain undecided. Architects David Childs and Daniel Libeskind are arguing over the design over the W.T.C. site’s first skyscraper, which Pataki dubbed the Freedom Tower in his April speech. He gave them until Dec. 15 to agree on a design. Construction on the building is targeted to being in August — a week before the Republican National Convention in New York City, although officials maintain the two events are not linked.

Pool photo by Associated Press

Architect Daniel Libeskind, Larry Silverstein and architecht David Childs walk toward the PATH entrance.

Developer Larry Silverstein, who owns the W.T.C. leasing rights and brought Childs into the project, said last week the tower will retain the symbolic height proposed by Libeskind: “1776 is where its going to be.”

Pataki appointed George Mitchell, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and a Democrat to mediate the dispute between Allianz insurance company and the Deutsche Bank, which owns the black-netted and still-damaged building on Liberty St. Pataki put a Dec. 31 deadline on ending the disagreement. The current plans for the W.T.C. site are dependent on the Port Authority or another government entity buying and demolishing the Deutsche to reduce the building density at the W.T.C. and add plaza space to the Libeskind master plan.

Mitchell brokered the Good Friday accord in Northern Ireland and the so-called Mitchell Plan in the Middle East, a 2000 peace agreement which the Israelis and Palestinians approved but didn’t implement. He laughed when he was asked if the Deutsche dispute would be easier to resolve. “I don’t know enough about it yet,” Mitchell told Downtown Express. “I’ve learned they’re all tough.”

He said he had not formed an opinion as to whether or not the building should be demolished.

Pataki formally withdrew his call in April to place an expensive mural over Deutsche while the disagreement is being resolved. Kevin Rampe, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and a Pataki appointee, told reporters last month that the Deutsche mural idea was likely to be scrapped because the building would be demolished anyway.

Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, who is in charge of the city’s Downtown rebuilding efforts, praised Pataki for maintaining a strict timetable.

“Without a real deadline that is enforced, you don’t get anything done,” said Doctoroff.

Last week, he released a letter he wrote to the Port Authority, owners of the W.T.C. site, asking them to make changes to the Libeskind plan [excerpts, page 21]. Among other things, he called for more street-level retail, which he said should be built in the first phase of the project before most of the proposed office construction. Doctoroff said the Cortlandt St. indoor mall should be turned into a regular street, an idea that is also supported by Community Board 1. Doctoroff also wrote that there needs to be detailed cost estimates for all of the options before final decisions are made. He said he was pleased by the Port’s response to his letter.

Greg Trevor, a P.A. spokesperson, said the agency would continue to work with the city, but he would not address any specific points in the letter.

Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctorroff released the diagram to the right with the city’s proposed changes to the W.T.C. design.adding street-level retail

Regarding the site of a bus garage for tourists visiting the W.T.C. memorial, Doctoroff said if there is not enough space for buses under the Deutsche building, a second garage may be built at Site 26 in Battery Park City. Many residents oppose the B.P.C. location because it is close to the neighborhood’s new ballfields. The Site 26 garage would raise the project costs considerably because it would require building a river-protecting slurry wall and a longer underground tunnel entrance.

A third possible garage site, under the memorial, is opposed by Pataki and many family members who view it as disrespectful to the memories of those who were killed on 9/11.

Doctoroff said a memorial garage looks like it is off the table “for the long-term foreseeable future. Probably forever.”

He said a decision on the West St. tunnel should wait until more detailed cost estimates are done and it is clear it makes sense to do, given other priorities such as building a Downtown link to the Long Island Rail Road and J.F. K. Airport.

Pataki, last week, said “$900 million is available to turn West St. into a grand promenade,” which could be done without building a tunnel. He did not talk about the merits of building the tunnel, which in April, he said would make crossing the street safer and provide a quieter setting for the adjacent memorial.

John Dellaportas, leader of the Save West St. Coalition, a tunnel-opponent group, said he didn’t find any comfort in Pataki’s speech. “We find it depressing that he feels he already has this $900 million for this tunnel that there is virtually no support for outside the corporate offices of Brookfield,” Dellaportas said, referring to the owners of the World Financial Center, which faces the W.T.C. on the other side of the highway. He thought Pataki last week tried “to slip it by without using the word tunnel.”

Dellaportas liked the idea of coordinating construction projects better, although he is skeptical about whether a new center was needed.

It could serve as a one-stop construction information center to Downtowners, but Pataki’s office did not respond to a request for more details. Lisi de Bourbon, a spokesperson for the city’s Dept. of Transportation, said her agency would participate with the governor’s plan once they find out more about it.

“We just heard about this last week,” she said. “We are going to play a role but our precise role hasn’t been determined yet.”

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said the Downtown C.E.O.’s in her group have been relieved to see the governor sticking to his timeline. “The fact that the governor is willing to be accountable, is probably the most important thing,” she said.

Transportation improvements are crucial, said Wylde, and now that it looks like the temporary PATH station will reopen on Nov. 23, the next big deadline will be seeing construction on the permanent W.T.C. transit hub by the end of 2004 or early in 2005.

Pataki said there was no thought to changing the station name. “There’s no other stop,” he said after touring the station. “This is the World Trade Center stop.”

The temporary station will have familiar escalators and turnstiles but they will be outdoors rather than under the trade center complex as they used to be. Vinyl panels with quotations from famous New Yorkers and New Jersey natives will partially block views of the “bathtub” slurry wall and the memorial area, but depending on the sunlight, the bathtub area, where many remains were discovered, will be visible from parts of the station.

One Port Authority official, requesting anonymity, said it is likely that some of the visitors who view the site every day from Church St. will pay the $1.50 fare to get a closer look. “The [P.A.] chairman talked about it being the first public space at the World Trade Center site, so what do you think,” said the official.

The first cars into the station on Nov. 23 will be the same eight that carried commuters to safety on Sept. 11. No one is believed to have been killed on a train or in the station on 9/11.

A pedestrian bridge on Vesey St. and over West St. will open Nov. 22 to make it easier for commuters and residents to get to Battery Park City.

During the week of Nov. 17, Pataki said the 13 jurors deciding on the W.T.C. memorial will announce eight possible designs to remember the 9/11 victims and those killed in the 1993 W.T.C. bombing. The jury will then pick a final design. Pataki warned some that they may not agree with the design that is ultimately chosen.

“In the end, there is no right way to remember,” Pataki said. “It is only right that we do remember. Over time, we came to appreciate what a college student named Maya Lin was trying to tell us about the Vietnam War. Now it is Maya Lin and her fellow jury members who have the great responsibility of selecting a memorial.”

The New York Post has reported that the eight designs have already been picked and artists are now refining the ideas, but the L.M.D.C. did not confirm that.

Joanna Rose, spokesperson for the L.M.D.C., said there will be no formal public hearings on the memorial proposals, but jurors are likely to pay attention to the public’s reaction before making the final decision.

Pataki did not reiterate his promise that the memorial design will be announced this fall, but Rose indicated it would not be much later than the first day of winter, Dec. 21. “We expect the decision by the end of the year,” she said.

The governor appointed John Whitehead, chairperson of the L.M.D.C., to lead the fundraising effort to pay for the memorial.

The jammed ballroom at the Ritz included Tribeca’s own Robert De Niro, whom Pataki thanked for starting the Tribeca Film Festival and for the actor’s previously-reported plans to build an 83-room hotel at Greenwich and N. Moore Sts., right near his Tribeca Film Center. Pataki announced that the project would use $38 million in Liberty Bonds.

Pataki said the park plans he announced in April are proceeding well, with Drumgoole Plaza expected to reopen this week and six more by the spring. By the end of next year seven new or improved parks will be completed, covering 50 acres in Lower Manhattan.

In April, Pataki said the park plans would cost $10 million, but the number went to $25 million after the L.M.D.C. and the Parks Dept. looked at the projects more closely. Cost estimates have recently gone over the $25 million, but Adrian Benepe, Parks commissioner told Downtown Express he is confident none of the projects will be scaled back.

Pataki said next month he and Bloomberg will announce a plan to reduce and improve the police barricades closing the streets near the New York Stock Exchange by April.

“Gone will be the police barricades that choke Wall and Broad Sts., replaced with security measures that blend into the streetscape,” he said. “Gone will be the Jersey barriers, replaced with planters that bring life to the Financial District. And gone will be the pick up trucks that block seven intersections around the exchange, replaced with more fitting gateways to this historic district.”



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