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NYC refuses lucrative tax breaks for bank to move to ground zero

Thursday, April 26, 2007

NEW YORK -- One of the nation's largest banks has threatened to leave the city if it doesn't receive bigger tax breaks to develop one of five planned office towers at ground zero, government officials said Wednesday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has been negotiating for weeks to build and lease the last skyscraper planned to replace the office space destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, officials familiar with the talks said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The bank has offered the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey $300 million for rights to develop the 50-story skyscraper on land now occupied by a vacant skyscraper heavily damaged during the attack, one official said.

If the deal goes through, JPMorgan Chase would build the tower and move thousands of employees from several midtown locations to the site, just south of the original twin towers.

But the bank has sought more lucrative tax incentives from the city and state to move downtown, and is looking at locations in Connecticut and New Jersey if a deal can't be reached, officials said.

Officials have said they won't offer any other company a deal like the one handed to the Goldman Sachs Co. brokerage two years ago when businesses were more wary about moving downtown. Since then, office vacancy rates in the neighborhood have dropped to pre-Sept. 11 levels.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday that "the city's always willing to negotiate," but said that city dollars would better be spent on clean streets, education, public safety and culture.

That, he said, is a better way "to spend the city's dollars rather than giving companies tax breaks."

JPMorgan Chase spokesman Joseph Evangelisti declined to comment on the talks Wednesday.

Goldman Sachs began building its corporate headquarters just north of ground zero in late 2005 after receiving $1.6 billion in tax-exempt bonds and more than $100 million in tax incentives to build a $2 billion building.

Officials familiar with the JPMorgan Chase talks said the incentives being sought are nowhere near that large.

JPMorgan Chase is the nation's third largest bank by assets, behind No. 1 Citigroup Inc., which is based in New York, and the Bank of America Corp., which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.


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