Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Governor, Mayor Considering Using Eminent Domain At Ground Zero

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Governor, Mayor Considering Using Eminent Domain At Ground Zero

May 03, 2005

Could developer Larry Silverstein lose control of the World Trade Center site because Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are on the hot seat? NY1’s Davidson Goldin has this exclusive report about the future of Lower Manhattan.

Sources told NY1 Monday that Larry Silverstein's control of the World Trade Center site is now in jeopardy.

We're told government officials are aggressively studying whether they can kick the leaseholder out, but take the $$4.5 billion of insurance cash he now controls.

Silverstein's signature Freedom Tower is now on hold because of security concerns, and officials say they might use eminent domain to cancel his lease, which began just weeks before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Mayor Bloomberg on Monday ridiculed reports that Silverstein might ask the government to help him pay for security.

“I’m sure Mr. Silverstein would love to have somebody else pick up some of his tab,” said the mayor.

If the situation in Lower Manhattan doesn't improve soon, Silverstein could be the odd man out. Governor Pataki has national aspirations, and Mayor Bloomberg is running for re-election. And the man who happens to hold the World Trade Center lease doesn't matter a whole lot to either of them.

In fact, government officials have complained about Silverstein for years. The developer is known for his enthusiasm, but he refused to comment for this story.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had plenty to say about the World Trade Center site Monday, and his comments help explain why elected officials might want a convenient fall-guy.

“If the governor and the mayor are so focused on the West Side of Manhattan, we are three and a half years after September 11th, [and] they have both, collectively, failed,” said the speaker.

Silver was reacting to reports the Freedom Tower will be too close to the West Side Highway. The design plan has the building 25 feet from the street, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is insisting on closer to 100 feet, perhaps even more.

“These are not new concerns. These are ongoing concerns that the department has been involved in and has surfaced these issues over an extended period of time,” said the commissioner.

Kelly has a point. One newspaper headline about security concerns dates back to November, and sources say the police put their concerns in writing last August. But state officials say those concerns were far from specific.

In the end, Larry Silverstein could take the blame for all of this.

- Davidson Goldin

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