WTC Developer Seeks Arbitration Over Delays

Bloomberg calls the Port Authority delays "unacceptable"

The World Trade Center's developer wants arbitrators to settle a monthslong lease dispute that has threatened to stall rebuilding at ground zero.
Larry Silverstein asked Tuesday for a three-member panel to resolve the argument over his lease to build three office towers. Silverstein says the owner of the 16 acre site,  the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, isn't meeting its obligations to rebuild parts of the site on time.
Silverstein's request would set up hearings sometime in September. 

In a statement, the Port Authority said "this arbitration process cannot distract from that fundamental point - that SPI(Silverstein Properties) would rather have public dollars at risk in place of its own private investment."
Silverstein wants more than $3 billion in backing from the agency to build two of the towers. 
The agency has agreed to back a tower currently under construction but says it won't back the second unless Silverstein commits more than $600 million to construction.

Mayor Bloomberg called any additional delays "unacceptable," and placing much of the blame on the Port Authority.

"The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site and is responsible for its redevelopment. That responsibility goes beyond the contractual agreements it has consistently failed to meet. The Port has an obligation to the entire nation to do everything possible to ensure the site is rebuilt, and, in particular, complete the Memorial by the tenth anniversary as promised," the mayor said.

The Port Authority said it "is on schedule to meet the completion dates." 

"We will continue the daily and visible progress in building the Memorial, One World Trade Center, the Transportation Hub and the other public infrastructure projects the agency is responsible for," it said in a statement.

Gov. David Paterson said today he is "disappointed" that Silverstein is pursuing arbitration.  Yesterday he gave the developer an ultimatum, saying construction at the site could go forward without his buildings.

Paterson sent a letter to Silverstein renewing an offer to help finance two of the developer's planned three office towers at the site.  The letter also proposes a redesign of one of the buildings -- suggesting more shops and retail.
But should rebuilding plans remain stalled, Paterson said today he's asked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to revise designs so that the public projects can be built independently of Silverstein's office buildings. 

In a statement, Silverstein's office said its initial review indicates that the ideas set forth by Gov. Paterson won't work. 

“These ideas also don’t address the principal issue – the Port’s chronic failures at the site. Every project for which the Port Authority is responsible has fallen years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, hindering the entire WTC rebuilding effort," Silverstein properties said.

It also said it remains committed to seeing the reconstruction through.

Silverstein leased the twin towers six weeks before they collapsed in 2001.

The squabbling is one of many obstacles facing redevelopment in the area.  A report issued earlier this year found that the World Trade Center Transportation Hub could cost nearly 30 percent more than was projected less than a year ago.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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