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Thread: Ground Zero Effort 'Losing Steam,' Schumer Says

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    Ground Zero Effort 'Losing Steam,' Schumer Says


    Published: May 3, 2005

    WASHINGTON -- The effort to raise a 1,776-foot Freedom Tower where the World Trade Center once stood is "losing steam," Sen. Charles Schumer told New York business leaders Tuesday.
    "Let's stop twiddling our thumbs and get to work," Schumer, D-N.Y., told a Crain's business breakfast.

    The senior senator also warned delays may jeopardize some $2 billion worth of federal tax incentives New York had hoped to win from Congress for the planned building of a rail link between Lower Manhattan and Kennedy Airport.

    "Nearly four years after Sept. 11, we are losing steam," Schumer said, noting that the steel for the Freedom Tower has yet to be ordered.

    "Unfortunately, a culture of inertia has infected downtown redevelopment and our city in general. ... Critics are given more weight than those trying to build," the senator said.

    Schumer said he was not laying blame on the two leaders most involved, Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    The lawmaker's criticism follows a number of developments that have thrown the rebuilding timetable into question.

    The Freedom Tower cornerstone was laid July 4, 2004, but police concerns raised in an assessment given to developer Larry Silverstein last month have forced the architects to rethink elements of the structure, including its precise location on the 16-acre site.

    The security concerns could push the planned 2009 opening back a year.

    Bloomberg said Monday it would be better to delay the opening than to dismiss security concerns.

    "In 1993 there was a bombing at the World Trade Center and we did not learn our lesson," Bloomberg said. "If we don't learn our lesson this time, shame on us."

    The New York Times reported Sunday that Silverstein has proposed seeking public financing, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars, to address security.

    "I'm sure Mr. Silverstein would like to have someone else pick up some of his tab," Bloomberg told reporters Monday. "At the moment we're not looking at that."

    A spokesman for Silverstein, Howard Rubenstein, declined to comment on the question of public financing but said in a statement: "It is too early in this collaborative process to determine the overall impact of the NYPD's recommendations on the schedule, appearance and cost of the Freedom Tower."

    Adding to the uncertainly, Lower Manhattan Development Corp. President Kevin Rampe, a close associate of Pataki who has been with the rebuilding agency since it was created in early 2002, announced Monday that he will leave at the end of the month. Rampe said his announcement was not related to the recent turmoil.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    Funds to Build Airport Link Are Imperiled


    Published: May 4, 2005

    aying that the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan was stymied by a "culture of inertia," Senator Charles E. Schumer declared yesterday that he would recommend diverting federal money that had been earmarked for a proposed downtown rail link to Kennedy Airport toward other projects if plans for that link were not final by the middle of next year.

    In a speech to business executives and fiscal-policy experts, Mr. Schumer was highly critical of a variety of developments over the last few months at the former World Trade Center site, citing the uncertainty surrounding the Freedom Tower, the recent decision by Goldman Sachs to abandon its plans to build a new office at the site and the lack of commercial enthusiasm for the area.

    Mr. Schumer said numerous times that he was not pointing a finger at any particular person or entity. But his remarks, which he made at a breakfast forum sponsored by Crain's New York Business in Midtown Manhattan, were the most pointed addition to mounting criticism directed in recent days at Gov. George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the various authorities charged with the rebuilding Lower Manhattan. And the criticisms were echoed by other politicians yesterday.

    In criticizing the slowed momentum of the construction of the Freedom Tower, Goldman Sachs's retreat and the lack of a firm plan for the construction of the proposed airport rail link, Mr. Schumer said: "Right now, we seem to be losing our way, letting inertia and bureaucratic obstacles slow our progress."

    The senator, who was instrumental in securing $21 billion in federal funds to aid New York City after the 2001 terrorist attacks, suggested yesterday that $2 billion of that money that President Bush has approved to pay for building that rail link would be lost if the city and state did not agree on a plan quickly. The link has been a major priority of Governor Pataki, who has lobbied the Bush administration to use the money for that purpose.

    But the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Peter S. Kalikow, said last week that the airport link might well be delayed because the state budget gave the agency far less than it wants for that project, the Second Avenue subway, and a Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central Terminal.

    Mr. Schumer said yesterday, "If the complete financing and structural plan for building a rail link are not concrete by the time of next year's fiscal budget, July 2006, I will move to spend it on some other downtown needed purpose."

    Mr. Schumer's spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said in an e-mail message later, "If, and only if, the rail link cannot come to pass, he will look at alternatives with the governor and the mayor." Those alternatives could include financing the Second Avenue subway line or offering financial incentives for businesses to locate downtown.

    Mr. Schumer's remarks were met with some alarm. "One disadvantage New York has generally is that it has no direct access to the airports from downtown, especially an international airport," said Carl Weisbrod, the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

    But Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, presented a different view. "I think Senator Schumer is just being practical about the pace of getting the center rebuilt," said Ms. Wylde. "And if that money could be transferred into incentives" to lure companies into Lower Manhattan, that money "might be well spent," she added.

    Yesterday, others seemed more than ready to pile on. Representative Jerrold Nadler accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of focusing too much on the Far West Side of Manhattan rather than downtown.

    "Rebuilding Lower Manhattan is key to the continued recovery and revitalization of the city," he said in a news release. "It is a terrible mistake to focus too much time and attention on one area or issue at the expense of others."

    Mr. Bloomberg derided the criticism at a news conference yesterday at Rockefeller Center. "These criticisms aren't really fair," he said, adding, "The transit hub is moving forward, the memorial has a final design, and many other things are happening.

    "I've heard words like delay and that's unfounded," the mayor said "There is a lot of activity going on down there."

    Governor Pataki echoed the sentiment. "All of this is moving forward well," he said at a news conference in Albany. "We do have to change the design of the Freedom Tower based on the analysis and concerns that the N.Y.P.D. raised, and that will be done," he said. "It will be done, certainly, as expeditiously as possible, but, the important thing is to make sure it is safe, and to make sure it is a symbol of New York's strength."

    Mr. Schumer spoke as state and city officials began searching for a new executive to play a key role in the rebuilding effort as president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; the current president, Kevin Rampe, announced on Monday that he was stepping down for a job in the private sector.

    Several state and city officials said yesterday that while they were still discussing the role of the corporation going forward, three New Yorkers were receiving the most attention and discussion as possible successors: Charles Maikish, the new construction czar for Lower Manhattan's reconstruction projects; Stefan Pryor, a top aide to Mr. Rampe and a senior vice president at the corporation; and Joseph J. Seymour, the former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    Patrick D. Healy contributed reporting for this article.

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