Deal is reached to end impasse over WTC project

Thursday, April 27, 2006

NEW YORK -- Breaking an impasse that threatened to hold up the rebuilding at ground zero, state officials and developer Larry Silverstein reached an agreement Wednesday under which Silverstein gave up control over the planned 1,776-foot Freedom Tower.

The deal came after months of sometimes-bitter negotiations over the future of the World Trade Center site.

"With today's agreement, we can now move forward with rebuilding the World Trade Center," Silverstein said. He said the construction trucks will start rolling today.

Silverstein agreed to give control of the $2.1 billion Freedom Tower and another planned skyscraper to the Port Authority. He will still build three other towers at the site.

Officials said the deal ensures all five planned towers will be built by 2012.

"We have an agreed-upon framework and we can move forward," Gov. George Pataki said. "This is the last stumbling block to putting shovels in the ground" on the Freedom Tower, the skyscraper that will rise on the site of the twin towers.

Pataki said the plan "will make certain that the rebuilt World Trade Center will anchor the financial capital of the world and make our nation proud."

Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association advocacy group, said the iconic tower "still looms as a potential public liability."

"Before billions of public dollars are committed to its construction and tenancy, we encourage the Port Authority to take a second look at its viability from a security and marketability perspective," Yaro said.

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the tower "an important symbol for this country and for the region."

Charles Gargano, a vice chairman at the Port Authority, said that continued rebuilding will attract the tenants lost by the twin towers' destruction by the time the Freedom Tower opens.

"We're confident," he said. "We have five years to create that kind of a market."

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