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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Take Your Sweet Time

It may take until 2036 before the World Trade Center is completely rebuilt. Fine with me (from AP).
NEW YORK – Construction of several ground zero office towers could be put off for decades because of the failing real estate market, the site's owners said Thursday, citing an analysis that projected one skyscraper might not be built and occupied until 35 years after Sept. 11.


[Developer Larry] Silverstein, unable to obtain financing for all the towers and with only about $1 billion left in insurance money to pay for them, asked the Port Authority last fall to guarantee financing for two of his towers, officials familiar with the negotiations say.
Few people seem to remember the World Trade Center was a classic monument to government waste, hubris and excess. There was no need to obliterate a vibrant commercial district to accommodate those huge, architecturally second-rate buildings and there was no need for the millions of square feet of office space they contained; businesses then, as now, were leaving downtown for midtown. Indeed, for years after the complex opened, it was mostly vacant until management of the Port Authority of New York, the famously arrogant government entity responsible for the Trade Center's construction and management, became so embarrassed by the see-through boondoggle it moved most of its operations into it so at least some of the space would appear to be leased.

Even the powerful Port Authority, however, wasn't quite powerful enough to foist the Trade Center on us, it also took the outsized egos and influence of Nelson and David Rockefeller. Those two power-mad brothers, wishing to emulate their old man, John D., Jr., by leaving their mark on Manhattan (Nelson, Governor of New York, apparently wasn't content destroying downtown Albany with his ghastly Empire State Plaza). The difference was John D., Jr. used his own money to build Rockefeller Center, perhaps the most successful, both financially and architecturally, office development in Manhattan. David and Nelson, like so many generational creatures of privilege, preferred using other people's money, the taxpayers,' to get the Trade Center built and neither of them had a whit of their father's vision or sense.

With the government, especially the Port Authority of New York, involved, there isn't a chance in the world the new World Trade Center will be of any merit whatsoever, nor will there be need for acres of government-sponsored office space downtown. The people would be better served if the land were sold off to the highest bidder.

Forty years ago, a man much wiser than I asked if the time had come to place the Port Authority in private hands so the public might have a say in its operation. It is as worthy a question now as it was then.

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