Volume 17, Number 39 | February 17-23, 2005

Downtown building coordinator named

Downtown Express file photo by Julie Lemberger
Charles Maikish in his World Trade Center office back in 1996, just before he left the Port Authority after 28 years. He is about to become executive director of the new Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center.
By Josh Rogers

Charles Maikish has spent most of his career building, managing and rebuilding the World Trade Center and now he will coordinate the site’s redevelopment and all other large construction projects in Lower Manhattan.

Maikish, who rose up through the ranks of the Port Authority from 1968 – 1996, said when he sees towers rise again at the W.T.C. he will feel “pride and joy that we cannot be defeated and that we definitely will rebuild and we will rebuild better.”

Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Mike Bloomberg named Maikish executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center Monday. Maikish, executive vice president of global real estate for J.P. Morgan Chase, will coordinate the construction schedules for all $25 million–plus projects south of Canal St. or southwest of Rutgers St. He has already begun calling some of the Downtown players and he will assume the job fulltime in April.

His $200,000 salary is being paid for by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., where he has a temporary office. Money to finance the command center is expected from a variety of government and other sources including the Federal Transit Administration.

Communicating regularly with residents and businesses will be an important part of the job.

“The worst thing you can do is surprise the community,” Maikish, 57, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “They want to know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen and how long it’s going to happen.”

The center will have a hotline, although Maikish said he was not sure if he will have the resources to keep a live person on call at all hours. There will be a Web site and the center will also make use of LowerManhattan.info, a joint site set up by the city and the L.M.D.C. He expects to hire a staff of between 10 and 20 people, who will help him meet regularly with many groups including Community Board 1, the Downtown Alliance and the Battery Park City Authority.

He wants “to facilitate and mitigate” construction projects and said the two goals do not have to conflict with each other.

Maikish’s appointment was praised by many Downtown leaders who have been eagerly awaiting someone to manage the billions of dollars worth of projects planned over the next five years.

“I’m very pleased he’s accepted this,” Madelyn Wils, chairperson of C.B. 1, told board members Tuesday. “He’s lived down here, he’s worked down here, he knows the area. Instead of playing catch-up, he’ll be able to get right in there.”

Several Battery Park City residents interviewed Wednesday said they had not heard of the construction command center, which was first proposed by Gov. Pataki over a year ago. They expressed varying degrees of concern about all of the construction planned.

Michael Kaufman, a Gateway Plaza resident, said he expects a “big mess” because of the slow pace of most construction projects. He wonders about the planned dismantling of the contaminated Deutsche Bank building across from the W.T.C. site but he trusts the powers that be to be careful. “I don’t know why, but I have faith that they’ll do it right,” he said of the L.M.D.C. contractors. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The environment was also on Ted Gottlieb’s mind. He was visiting his daughter in Gateway. “We’re concerned about the toxic dust that’ll be released and our ability to keep it out of the apartment,” Gottlieb said.

Another neighbor who requested anonymity was resigned to living with construction disruptions: “It is what it is – if you live here, you’re going to have to deal with it.”

Maikish will look for “collaborative decisiveness” as he deals with the myriad of state and city agencies, public authorities, private developers and utility companies involved with construction Downtown. Under executive orders signed by Pataki and Bloomberg last year, Maikish will report directly to the governor and mayor while heading an executive committee made up of senior managers from their agencies and authorities. Bloomberg will also appoint a director of city operations to work under Maikish and coordinate communications with other city agencies.

Maikish plans to speak soon with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about coordinating security safeguards and street closures with the construction projects. Kelly has been criticized by some residents for being overly cautious when it comes to security-related closures. During Kelly’s first stint as commissioner under Mayor Dinkins, Maikish was the Port’s top official at the W.T.C. and got to know Kelly well.

Maikish played a pivotal role in reopening the center after the 1993 bombing and was a strong advocate for making sure that the six victims of the attack will be included in the planned W.T.C. memorial.

He first came to the P.A. in 1968 as an engineer and helped the agency build the towers from the ground. He is also an attorney. During his 28 years at the Port, many Downtown leaders got to know Charlie Maikish well and he played an active role in several Lower Manhattan organizations including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Downtown Alliance, which manages the area’s Business Improvement District and helps keep the streets clean.

And tidiness will count in Maikish’s new job. His responsibilities under the executive orders include making sure “that the Lower Manhattan area remains neat clean and orderly throughout construction.”

With additional reporting by Divya Watal and Ronda Kaysen

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