Volume 77 / Number 34 Jan. 23 - 29, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

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The W.T.C. deadlines must be met — quietly!

The Port Authority’s New Year’s Eve admission that it would miss the Jan. 1 deadline to finish preparing two World Trade Center office sites can be seen several ways.

The $300,000-a-day fines going to developer Larry Silverstein are a steep bill that is ultimately paid by the public; but the Port Authority is probably right that it will amount to something close to a wash, since the authority will not have to pay a $10 million, on-time bonus to its contractors, and officials are confident they’ll have the sites ready early in February.

The fines add discipline to a project that has needed it, and are warranted in their own right since the delays lead to real costs for Silverstein.

If the delay finishing the eastern “bathtub” foundation only amounts to a few weeks, it will truly be a blip on the screen of a long, tortured process to redevelop the W.T.C. The two Church St. towers are much more important than the Freedom Tower under construction, since they will reconnect the W.T.C. back with Lower Manhattan and provide much-needed retail space. So a month or two difference will not matter much.

It is much more troubling that it took the Port Authority more than five years to begin constructing the bathtub, and that under the Pataki administration, the authority sat on the federal money to build it for more than a year.

More recently under Governor Spitzer, the Port Authority should have been willing to admit sooner that it was going to miss the deadline, rather than waiting to the last minute to fess up. More important, the rush to make the deadline, and now the rush to end the fines, was causing undue hardship on a small number of residents who live right next to the loudest construction.

We were pleased to hear the Port Authority has just agreed to buy better soundproofing windows for these residents and that the wee-hours jackhammering and nearly round-the-clock work has subsided at least temporarily. There is about $16 billion worth of construction going on at the site and for the Port Authority to have originally nickeled and dimed this small group of residents was unconscionable. The authority should now commit to not doing any loud construction work late at night or early in the morning.

Over the last year under Village resident Anthony Shorris — Spitzer’s choice to run the Port Authority as executive director — community relations have mostly gotten better.

We hope that continues, since construction at the site and in Lower Manhattan is expected to increase this year.

The next five years will either see unprecedented construction activity in Lower Manhattan or massive delays. The latter scenario will be bad no matter what; the former can be something to be proud of if the communication and accommodation is as steady as the work. The bathtub completion is a good place to test these new waters.

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