More squabbling at the WTC site

By Felix Salmon
May 20, 2009

Depressing news from Christina Lewis today: we’re entering yet another round of unhelpful bickering between the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein over the future of the World Trade Center site. What we desperately need is a strong New York governor willing to knock heads together — but we didn’t have that in George Pataki, and we certainly don’t have it in David Paterson.

Silverstein seems to think that the Port Authority should provide financing for him to build millions of square feet of empty office space at the site, even after it took responsibility for financing the Freedom Tower (now called 1 World Trade Center) off his hands. The Port Authority’s response is spot-on:

Officials note the agency finances major infrastructure projects throughout the region. They say backing Mr. Silverstein’s projects would prevent the agency from fulfilling its core mission.

“It’s not for the public sector to be financing speculative buildings,” said Christopher Ward, the agency’s executive director.

I hope that the Port Authority does manage to force Silverstein to scale back his ambitions: as a New York taxpayer, I have no particular interest in providing this particular property speculator with low-cost funding which gives him all the upside and leaves me with most of the downside.

On the other hand, we do seem to be moving to a world where the only two towers to be built on the site for the foreseeable future will be the boringly gigantic Freedom Tower by David Childs, and the dully minimalist 4 World Trade Center by Fumihiko Maki. The two interesting buildings, from an architectural standpoint — the Norman Foster and Richard Rogers towers — look set to exist on paper only.

Also, two questions for the WSJ. First, where did they get the idea that Ground Zero is “the most popular tourist attraction in Manhattan”? And second, why does the sidebar open up in PDF format? Most peculiar.

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