Volume 79, Number 46 | April 21 - 27, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


End the PAC delay

There have been so many frustrations connected to redeveloping the World Trade Center, but a big one is that no one in power ever took the call to build an arts center there seriously. There is now a way to change that. Who would have ever imagined that the perennially delayed Deutsche Bank demolition actually could serve as a source to jumpstart another project?

The 9/11-damaged building could be down by the end of the year (fingers crossed), and short of another unforeseen disaster, it will certainly be cleared away to build the proposed Performing Arts Center many years before the current PAC site is ready.

A Lower Manhattan Development Corporation feasibility study suggests it would cost about $170 million less — or a price tag of about $330 million — to build the PAC at the Tower 5 Deutsche site than the proposed location. And there’s more than $200 million available to build it with unused federal 9/11 funds.

So moving the arts building site would save money and time, and there’s a way to fund most of it. Who could be against that?

Logic would say no one, but the city opposes the move. If they get around to telling us why we’ll let you know. The Port Authority is another potential opponent, but its executive director, Chris Ward, did not voice any objections when we asked him about it last week. Maybe the Port Authority would consider the fact that arts centers have proven time and time again to be economic stimulants — the thing that is needed most now at the W.T.C.

Julie Menin, the chairperson of Community Board 1 and an L.M.D.C. board member, has made that point well. We commend her for taking the lead in trying to get the PAC built in the short run.

A vital arts center is not as important as the World Trade Center memorial, which is being built, but it is a crucial piece to completing a proper response to 9/11. The way to rise from the horrific attack is to join honor, beauty and commerce together at the same place.

We’ve heard that the city may have concerns about forgoing the current PAC site until a new one is secure. That’s fine, but it makes no sense not to also explore a cheaper, quicker alternative.

The city does not have much credibility when it comes to the PAC. Four years ago, the Bloomberg administration said it would take the lead in getting it built. Three years ago, then-Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said the fundraising could begin soon. Then, last fall, Kate Levin, the city’s Cultural Affairs commissioner, said fundraising could be put off for at least a few more years.

The L.M.D.C. still has more than $50 million set aside for the PAC, as well as $10 million to help the Drawing Center build a home, but the arts group no longer seems able to use it. Two weeks ago, the corporation revealed that it also has at least $150 million, possibly $170 million, left over in a $750 million fund set aside for utilities.

Con Edison and Verizon have already received about $400 million in federal money for 9/11 damage and related costs on top of their insurance payments. Both are due to get more out of the utility fund, but the $150 million clearly can be shifted to a W.T.C. project such as the PAC, and most, if not all, of it should go there.

These utilities and others deserve praise for restoring service to Lower Manhattan quickly and helping us continue to rebuild. They also received a lot of compensation. The Performing Arts Center, a critical and integral component of the original master plan for rebuilding the site, is a much better way to spend this $150 million.



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