Money threatens WTC site development

Construction cranes stand on the site of the World Trade Center in New York.

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Steve Chiotakis: A judge today will look at a settlement that could pay up to more than $600 million to workers made sick by dust at the World Trade Center site. Ten thousand Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers are affected. It's been more than eight years since that disastrous day. And yet there's still an empty space where the trade towers once stood in lower Manhattan. That's the result of a stalemate between the site's developer and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Today's an important day for the future of that site, as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports.


Jeremy Hobson: Peer through the fence around the World Trade Center site and you'll see some buildings are going up. The 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, for one, and a new transportation hub. But it's the east side of the site that's at stake today. Specifically, how much public money will back developer Larry Silverstein's construction of two additional skyscrapers?

MITCHELL MOSS: The Port Authority wants Silverstein to take on more risk, but he wants the Port Authority to help finance it.

That's Mitchell Moss, a professor of Urban Policy and Planning at New York University. He says the Port Authority doesn't want to put up the money, because it's afraid there won't be any tenants to fill the buildings. He doesn't agree.

MITCHELL MOSS: The truth is this site has intrinsic value, and it will be occupied. Seven World Trade Center, which Mr. Silverstein built on his own, is now complete. It's fully occupied, it's been leased at very, very competitive rents, and no one thought that would happen.

But the commercial real estate market has only gotten worse since 7 World Trade Center went up.

Christopher Jones with the Regional Plan Association says the Port Authority shouldn't use public money to build two more towers in this economic climate.

CHRISTOPHER JONES: You do have to bring the site up to grade, you do have to build the foundations for the towers that can be built later when there's a market to rent the space, but you don't have to build all four towers immediately.

If there is no deal today, an arbitration panel could come up with a solution. But city leaders worry that would only mean more delays for the entire site.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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