May 8, 2009

Speaker Silver Calls for Leadership Summit
on World Trade Center Reconstruction

Silver Says at Least Two Towers Should Rise at Site, in Addition
to Freedom Tower, Demands all Parties Share Risk

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today called for a leadership summit on reconstruction at the World Trade Center site, to include New York Governor David Paterson, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Port Authority chief Chris Ward, developer Larry Silverstein and other stakeholders.

Silver also said development at the site should proceed based on the expectation that the economy will improve in the coming years and that at least two towers should be built in addition to the Freedom Tower.

Silver delivered his remarks at a breakfast sponsored by the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association.

Following are excerpts from his remarks. The complete remarks can be found here:

I still believe and will always believe in New York, but I have grown weary of the unfulfilled commitments, the recalcitrance, the slowing of progress at the World Trade Center site, and the absence of a clear and steady focus from leadership at the highest levels of government on the needs of Lower Manhattan.

Seven years and eight months after the attacks, I am fed up with the stalling and I am exasperated by the current state of the World Trade Center project; a site, I will remind everyone, where nearly 3,000 human beings - many of them, New Yorkers - lost or gave their lives.

That we are where we are after this much time is an embarrassment to our city, our state and to the nation.

Yes, there were unrealistic deadlines. Mistakes were made and it took time to bring together all of the stakeholders and open the lines of communication.

That's the part of our history that we cannot afford to repeat.


I am not here today to take sides. Frankly, when it comes to Ground Zero and the future of Lower Manhattan, there should be no "sides."

I am here today to say that if we allow the current impasse to go on another few weeks, another few months, the failure will belong to all of us.

So there must be no more stalled negotiations. No arbitration.

Given this economic crisis, I can appreciate the Port Authority's financial concerns. We cannot expect the taxpayers to foot the entire cost of all that we want and need to build.

At the same time every stakeholder must take on a share of the risk.


The real question must be, how do we move forward, now?

As I have told you during each and every progress report, I will do whatever I can, whatever it takes, to get the ball rolling again.

Over the years, I have brought various stakeholders together to facilitate agreement and to move the Lower Manhattan rebuilding process forward.

Privately, in recent days, I have offered to do the same thing again. Now, I am making that offer public.

We owe it to New Yorkers to bring everyone to the table - Governor Paterson, Governor Corzine, Mayor Bloomberg, Chris Ward, Larry Silverstein, myself and all of the stakeholders to facilitate an agreement on the World Trade Center site.

Along with this offer, I also have a few demands.

In keeping with my message this morning, I am calling for the construction of at least two towers, with the provision that all of the stakeholders must share in the risk.

Next, to quote from Downtown Alliance Executive Director Elizabeth Berger's testimony at my January World Trade Center hearing:

"We want a rebuilt World Trade Center and an above-ground, architecturally significant Fulton Transit Center with significant retail. That is what Lower Manhattan needs, what Lower Manhattan wants, and what Lower Manhattan deserves going forward."

To that, let me add that the Fulton Transit Center is the ultimate "shovel ready" project and that the federal stimulus money is there. So, I am calling upon the Governor to keep his promise to Lower Manhattan by completing this critical transportation project.

We must also move forward with the performing arts center.

As the Chair of Community Board One, Julie Menin, suggested at my World Trade Center hearing, if we really want to reinvigorate Lower Manhattan and bring thousands of people downtown, we need a grand performing arts center.

To all of the stakeholders, I say that we need a detailed construction schedule for the Memorial, 130 Liberty Street, West Street, and the vehicle security center.

To protect and enhance the quality of life in Lower Manhattan, we must have additional assistance for small businesses.

We must have a plan to deal with tour bus parking during the gap between the construction of the Memorial and construction of the bus garage, and as I have said at least a thousand times, we must open Park Row to get customers into Chinatown.

* Let me assure you that I know we have very passionate and capable leaders involved in this project at every level.

Still, for whatever reason, the dynamic has broken down again. We cannot afford to halt negotiations, to continuously alter and re-alter our plans, thereby adding to the already incalculable price of delay.

Let us leave here remembering the words of former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who along with his brother, David Rockefeller - and this Association - led the effort to build the original World Trade Center.

Governor Rockefeller said, "America is not just a power, it is a promise. It is not enough for our country to be extraordinary in might. It must be exemplary in meaning."

This is what I am hoping to re-instill this morning in all of the stakeholders, some sense of the meaning behind what we're trying to build here in Lower Manhattan.

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