So the World Trade Center site completion dates are wrong, there’ll be more delays, and what’s needed now is for all of the players to sit down in a room and make the tough choices to get things going.
Been there, done that.
The message this week from Christopher Ward, the Port Authority’s new executive director, is similar to previous announcements made in the past to jumpstart redevelopment at ground zero. There are many reasons to think we are still adrift and haven’t heard the last grand plan to rebuild the site.
But there is also reason to think that maybe this time — frankly we and everyone else have lost count — will be the charm. Ward was unusually frank in his assessment of how bad the mess is, and since the Port actually owns the site, he has the authority to crack the whip. We hope he uses it at his own agency too.
The Port and former Gov. George Pataki are the chief culprits in creating this predicament. Pataki allowed the authority to dawdle for years and not design the slurry wall “bathtub” needed to rebuild three office towers and the Downtown community’s much desired retail, which also was the country’s most profitable mall.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Mike Bloomberg also deserve blame. Spitzer’s Downtown “team” fought too much to get anything done. Gov. David Paterson is cleaning house at the top and trying to clear up the jurisdictional confusion. Ward is clearly in charge and hopefully will be able to resolve the disputes between agencies, organizations and developers.
Ward’s new steering committee has a place for all of the W.T.C. power players, but it’s unclear how disputes will be resolved — majority rule, Port decree or some other way. One Port official shrugged when we asked him that and Ward had no specifics. It is also regrettable, although not surprising, that the local community has no voice on the committee. Prompt public disclosures of committee decisions and of ongoing impasses will reduce the harm of this exclusion.
The 15 unresolved issues Ward has outlined are daunting and we wonder if resolving them by September and coming up with a believable schedule then is a realistic goal and not another of what Paterson rightfully calls “phony timetables.”
Ward’s report is sobering but there are also silver linings. The performing arts center, the project’s long “forgotten stepchild,” may finally be remembered.
Everything at the site cannot be built simultaneously and Ward’s committee now must figure out the priorities.
The Calatrava train station, even scaled back, should be the highest priority because better transportaation makes the other projects more viable. The memorial is crucial but doesn’t need to open first, particularly since construction of the tour bus garage needed for millions of memorial visitors is stuck to the plagued and delayed demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building. Construction of retail stores and office towers on Church St. will bring life back to the site and end its “hole in the ground” feeling. It is vastly more important than the empty symbolism of the Freedom Tower.
Symbolism is so 2006. Real progress would be a better theme now.