U.S. News

NYC mayor seeks more sway over Ground Zero

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City should get more control over Ground Zero’s long-delayed rebuilding by abolishing a state agency, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday, a day before the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) speaks during the seventh annual 9/11 commemoration ceremony held at Zuccotti Park in New York September 11, 2008. REUTERS/Patti Sapone-The Star-Ledger/Pool

Bloomberg, who said the memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center must open by the 10th anniversary of the attacks, also recommended scaling back the site’s transit hub.

Bloomberg, an independent, urged the state to dismantle the Lower Manhattan Development Corp, which parceled out billions of dollars of federal rebuilding aid. The state agency’s record has been marred by its oversight of the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building. Last summer, two firefighters died there in a blaze being probed by the New York district attorney.

“The multiple layers of authority between the federal, state and city and the private sector just keeps getting in the way,” Bloomberg told reporters at a ceremony where he signed one of the first steel beams for the memorial.

Bloomberg noted the site poses extraordinary challenges because the PATH trains that connect the city to New Jersey and the New York City subways must keep running through it, while some work cannot be done until the nearby Deutsche Bank building is torn down.

“Under no circumstances should we jeopardize the safety of anybody that works there or produce something we’re not proud of and not built to the highest standard,” he said.

Gov. David Paterson, who assumed office in mid-March, is not releasing his views in any detail as he waits for his lead official to finish new cost estimates and a new timetable that are due September 30. On Tuesday, Paterson also said the memorial must open by the 10th anniversary, saying that restoring transportation was second in importance and then building new office towers.

World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein, who had leased the twin tower complex just weeks before it was destroyed, is building three office towers on the site. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land, will put up the Freedom Tower, the 1,776-foot (541 meter) building meant to symbolize the city’s resurgence.

The Port Authority has missed a few deadlines on the site’s redevelopment, and is currently paying Silverstein $300,000 a day because it failed to finish some preparation work by July 1.

Meanwhile, the transit hub, whose cost soared over $2.5 billion due to its complexity and the soaring price of steel, already has been greatly simplified. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, Its so-called butterfly wings now will be fixed instead of flapping open and shut.

Paterson responded noncommittally to Bloomberg’s request to ax the Lower Manhattan agency, saying the mayor was his “full partner.”

“I share a sense of disappointment and frustration at the unacceptable pace of the Ground Zero rebuilding, which has never had a realistic timeline or budget -- an absolute necessity for undertaking construction of this scale,” Paterson said.

Editing by Leslie Adler