Volume 22, Number 53 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 14 - 20, 2010
PAC fate lies in an alphabet soup of agencies
BY John Bayles
Only a few people have seen the study, but one of them believes there is no reason to hide it from anyone. That person is Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin, and the study in question was conducted by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and pertains to the feasibility of moving the Performing Arts Center (PAC) from its intended 1B site to Tower 5, the Deutsche Bank building.
The study was slated to be revealed at C.B. 1’s WTC Committee meeting Monday night. However, much to Menin’s chagrin, that did not happen.
“The feasibility study shows it would cost $325 million to build on Tower 5,” said Menin. “That feasibility study is tax payer funded and should be released to the public.”
Menin has stated that building on the currently approved 1B site would cost $450 million.
After David Emil, president of the LMDC, gave a lengthy presentation on the corporation’s allocated funds and funds spent to date, he gave his reasoning behind the removal of the feasibility study from the meeting’s agenda. He said it would give possible contractors too big an advantage.
“To release it would be to say, ‘here’s the floor, start bidding’,” he said.
Menin, however, said not addressing the issue in a public forum and that the LMDC’s refusal to have a frank dialogue about it was “unfortunate.”
Andrew Winters, director of capital projects for the mayor’s office, said, “It would not be done cheaper or quicker at Tower 5 because the Vehicle Security center will take about two years to build near Tower 5.”
He also said it was “important” that the PAC remain in the heart of the WTC site.
But, Menin has concerns that the PAC, regardless of its physical location, will even be built at all. Her concerns are three-fold.
“One, it assumes the transit hub will be built on time. What we’ve seen with anything at Ground Zero is that nothing is done on time,” she said. “Two, is that it will cost $450 million to build on site 1B and there is no fundraising entity set up. I don’t know how we expect to raise the funds in this market”
Menin said that way back in 2003 she suggested setting up a 501c3 but that there was push back. Now she feels there was a huge opportunity missed during a boom market.
“And three, Mayor Bloomberg chaired the foundation board and he will not be there in 2014. Who will be there to raise the funds then?”
Winters said he did not buy the argument that the office market will take decades to rebound.
“Things can turn pretty quickly,” he said.
Menin has also been pushing the LMDC to release the remaining utility funds slated to go to Con Edison to be allocated solely to the PAC. Winters said the mayor is “open to shifting some utility money but wants to evaluate the needs.”
Winters said the state is managing the utility fund and he’s been told there will likely be some unknown amount left. He said he should have that number sometime this summer.
“This is the problem with the LMDC in general – there is always a passing of the buck from the city to the state,” said Menin. “Bifurcated agencies do not generally work. You need one entity in charge, one entity accountable. The whole principle of the LMDC and how it was set up leads to inaction and fractious debate.”
The “alphabet soup” of agencies as Menin put it, was reflected in a statement released to the Downtown Express this week by State Senator Daniel Squadron.
“We all agree that getting the [PAC] built as quickly as possible must be a priority,” stated Squadron. “The challenge is getting to agreement on basic facts of cost, timing and logistics. When we reconvene, the City, the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will present agreed upon facts to help us determine which location is best. I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all the stakeholders to make the PAC a reality in Lower Manhattan.”
For Menin, Squadron’s statement gets to the heart of the issue.
“The single biggest reason why we’ve had so many problems with the redevelopment process,” said Menin, “is there are too many players, to many parties, too many people who refuse to be held accountable.”
— with reporting
by Josh Rogers