NEW YORK - The rebuilding of the World Trade Center site needs to get back on track, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said on Friday, saying that at least two World Trade Center towers should be built without further delay.
The reconstruction of the site has faced repeated delays and recently hit another impasse with the economic downturn.
Last month, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre site, said it was taking a cautious approach to rebuilding after a study it commissioned found that it would take until 2037 to lease all the planned office towers.
Demand for office space in Lower Manhattan has fallen with Wall Street's profits, and bankers are wary of lending to projects that will not find tenants quickly.
I will do whatever I can, whatever it takes, to get the ball rolling again, Silver said, in a speech to a business breakfast.
While the steel structure for One World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot (541-meter) building formerly called the Freedom Tower, is now about 10 stories above ground, Silver said he was exasperated by the lack of leadership at the highest levels of government needed to advance the rest of the projects.
That list includes the Fulton Street Transit Center, which has qualified for federal stimulus money, a performing arts center, a memorial to the nearly 3,000 who died in the September 11, 2001, attacks and a security center for vehicles.
Developer Larry Silverstein, who holds the lease on the site, wants to start building all three of his planned office towers but has turned to the Port Authority to guarantee some of his loans. If Silverstein could not repay the loans, the agency would gain ownership of the towers.
Silver, a Democrat who represents a lower Manhattan district, said all of the stakeholders must share the risk for at least two of the towers.
We cannot expect the taxpayers to foot the entire cost of all that we want and need to build, he said.
Janno Lieber, who runs Silverstein's rebuilding team, lauded Silver's move. We welcome his statement for agreeing that a successful downtown redevelopment must include at least two of our three buildings, Lieber said in a statement.
Silverstein's World Trade Center 4 will soon rise as high as the sidewalk, he said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded by inviting the governors of New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority, and Silverstein to a meeting next week.
New York Governor David Paterson, who controls the Port Authority along with New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a fellow Democrat, in a statement joined Bloomberg in urging renewed negotiations.
We must acknowledge that the public should not be the ones taking on all of the risk for private development and that we should not repeat the mistakes of the past where unrealistic expectations got in the way of a practical path, said Paterson.
The Port Authority said the memorial and mass transit aspects must take priority over office towers.
In this tough economic climate, the Port Authority must be realistic about putting its limited public resources toward the most public benefit, which means keeping the Memorial and the public transportation projects moving forward, and building the office and retail development to meet the market, the agency's statement said.