That’s the question looming over lower Manhattan as
it is not simply rebuilt, but reconfigured for a new century. Each day, it
seems, brings the formation of another task force, the issuance
of another plan. The enthusiasm withwhichso many New Yorkers have thrown
themselves into rethinking their damaged city is inspiring. But in true New
York fashion,they’re all talking at the same time.
The public authority charged with coming up with a
plan for the land, John Whitehead’s Lower Manhattan Development Corporation,
has so far managed to pull the neat trick of being both sprawling (at this
rate, we’ll probably all be appointed
to it sooner or later) and opaque. Who’s really in charge? Of the countless
interest groups with a stake, which voices ring louder than others?
In short, how do you cut through the cacophony? How
do you tell which plans are for real and which are just well-intentioned
The Observer has charted the circles of influence surrounded the 16 acres where the
World Trade Center once stood. And at the center of it all is one man: Governor
George Pataki. He faces re-election this year, and figures to endure a tougher
challenge than he did in 1998, when he won his second term with just over 50
percent of the vote. Already his would-be opponents, H. Carl McCall and Andrew
Cuomo, have tried to make the Governor’s handling of downtown reconstruction a
Other players will have important roles to play in
the coming months and years. Here is a synopsis of the players downtown, and
where they fit into the ring of influence over one of New York’s most
monumental rebuilding projects.
1: The Governor
Ignore the baffling alphabet soup of agencies
involved-the P.A., the LMDC, the ESDC, the M.T.A., etc.-and keep your eye on
who’s running them. Mr. Pataki has placed some of his most trustworthy
courtiers in the redevelopment process. Joe Seymour was city manager of
Peekskill, N.Y., when Mr. Pataki was mayor; now he’s the new executive director
of the Port Authority. Lou Tomson , formerly managing partner
of Mr. Pataki’s old law firm, is the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s
president. Charles Gargano , the Governor’s chief fund-raiser, heads up
the Empire State Development Corporation and is the Governor’s chief voice on
the Port Authority board. Look for tensions between Mr. Gargano, an old Alfonse
D’Amato loyalist, and the Mr. Pataki’s Peekskill pals. “It’s the
Westchester County crowd versus the Long Island crowd in the duel for Pataki’s
soul,” said one New York business leader.
Level 2: The Landlords
The Port Authority built the World Trade Center.
Seventy-four of its employees died there. It still owns the land, and no one is
going to take it away-least of all Mr. Whitehead’s commission. “Their
psychological focus on the site is indescribable,” said one real-estate
executive of the authority. No wonder: The World Trade Center generated
billions in revenue for the P.A. And while museums and schools on the site are
winning popularity contests on the board and in the public, expect the Port
Authority to fight for someone who can pay the rent.
Not long ago, The
New York Times published a story about Larry Silverstein’s redevelopment
plans. Next to it was a picture not of the developer but of his P.R. man,
Howard Rubenstein. Telling mistake. Mr. Silverstein’s redevelopment plan is a
strange hybrid: one part real-estate deal, two parts publicity stunt. The spinning
began within 48 hours of the attacks-when Mr. Silverstein declared, in The Wall Street Journal , a “moral
obligation” to rebuild. Hogging the limelight is Mr. Silverstein’s way of
signaling that he won’t go quietly or cheaply; still, there’s persistent talk
that state officials might try to oust him from the project. But Mr.
Silverstein would probably demand a big chunk of the insurance billions to walk
away. Is it worth that much to shut Larry up?
The recovery in recent weeks
of more bodies have lent credibility to the contention, advanced by leaders of
some victims’ groups (like Monica Iken ,
the trader’s widow who founded September’s Mission), that to build anything
commercial on the site would be profane. That view has former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ‘s vocal backing. But
the “listening period” has ended-and LMDC board members seem ready to push
forward with a large-scale redevelopment. Still, no one-least of all the
reelection-minded Mr. Pataki-wants a messy fight with bereaved families.
The Governor’s Men
Charles Gargano, chairman, Empire State Development Corporation
When Mr. Gargano gave his blessing to Mr.
Silverstein’s plans to put spades in the ground at 7 World Trade Center in
June, cynical onlookers saw a plot to force the developer’s hand. Such are the
Machiavellian machinations of the man known as the “Ambassador of Love.” Mr.
Gargano’s relationship with Mr. Whitehead is also apparently less than amorous:
Mr. Gargano, Mr. Whitehead’s titular boss, didn’t like his underling’s brash
talk of reporting directly to the Governor. (Both men claim that reports of
their conflict are much exaggerated.) Mr. Gargano gets to dole out billions in
federal aid and contracts while raising money for Mr. Pataki’s reelection.
chairman, Lower Manhattan
Mr. Whitehead came into the job vowing to be
“independent.” He got his wish: Now he’s standing alone. Congressional
Democrats liked Mr. Whitehead’s nonpartisan talk but blanched when he declared
that he had no idea what to do with the $2 billion they handed him. Real-estate
developers now say he’s moving too slow; Pataki administration officials who
liked the 79-year-old Goldman Sachs banker’s gravitas now whisper that he seems
to ramble at public meetings. And has Mr. Whitehead’s “listening period”-which
ran just long enough to spur attacks over inaction-made anyone feel truly
consulted? What does this agency do
that Mr. Gargano’s can’t?
Lou Tomson, executive director,
After Mr. Whitehead’s
stiff-arm to Mr. Gargano, Mr. Tomson’s appointment was widely interpreted as
the Governor’s attempt to reassert control. A longtime Pataki troubleshooter,
Mr. Tomson’s first job was getting things organized, quick. “I think [now]
we’ll see less of the muscle-flexing and more ‘we have to perform,'” one state
4: City Hall
So Mr. Bloomberg gets to appoint three new people
to the 11-member LMDC board. This counts as progress for a Mayor who was widely
derided as marginal to the most important development in city history. In
fairness, he was dealt a weak hand-Mr. Giuliani assented to state control of
the board, which Mr. Bloomberg opposed during the campaign, and appointed four
of his own people to it before leaving office-and played the cards he had
beautifully. His chief bit of leverage: Mr. Pataki could hardly cross Mr.
Bloomberg, his (nominally) Republican colleague, in an election year. But how
much real say will Mr. Bloomberg have? It may depend on whom he appoints.
Dan Doctoroff, deputy mayor for
economic developmen t
Not long ago, Mr. Doctoroff and his merry band of
big thinkers were doggedly lobbying the government to support his 2012 Olympics
scheme. Now they are the government.
How did that happen? Sept. 11 made everyone ambitious again. “[The Olympics
plan] was a bold and visionary look at what the city could become,” Mr.
Doctoroff said. Now the LMDC’s staff is full of people who used to draw a
paycheck from Mr. Doctoroff: Alex Garvin ,
the planning director, drew up Mr. Doctoroff’s Olympic plans and is in turn
bringing his staff from NYC 2012 with him. Now Mr. Doctoroff is sure to be one
of Mr. Bloomberg’s appointees to the board. No wonder he’s always smiling.
Able was I ere I saw …
Liberty Island? Once our cranky emperor, Mr. Giuliani has spent the last few
months jetting around the world, accepting platitudes and peerages, and
generally basking in his newfound nobility. But he still has a toehold in the
redevelopment process, as the self-appointed advocate of the victims. Political
observers say he’s probably the only person who could single-handedly derail a
redevelopment plan. And he’s not shy about it. Witness his final address to the
city, in which he announced his determination to preserve all 16 acres of the
Trade Center site from redevelopment. He’s since backed off from that, saying
the “footprint”-something like half the site-would be sufficient. Yet
redevelopment insiders are still wondering: Can he resist attacking his old
nemesis, Mr. Pataki?
Level 5: The bankers
Kenneth Chenault, AMEX
Wall Street may be in New York City-but it’s the
bankers who rule downtown. So it’s no wonder that every government official in
town is bending over backwards to keep them happy. Mr. Pataki, by appointing
Mr. Whitehead, sent them a message: Please
stay, you’re in charge. And when American Express announced its return to
the World Financial Center, Mayor Bloomberg gave this State of the City speech
plug: “I’ve started to use only my American Express card … and I urge you to do
it, too.” C.E.O.’s like Goldman Sachs’ Henry Paulson Jr. , who has already
decided to move his stockbrokers to Jersey City, will be closely watched for
signs of anxiety.
Richard Grasso, NYSE
Six weeks after Sept. 11, Mr. Grasso effectively
scuttled the Giuliani administration’s plans to build a new, $1.1 billion stock
exchange on Wall Street, saying that plans for an office tower atop such a
visible symbol of American capitalism were no longer “salable.” Most
real-estate professionals agree. But the city may have too much invested not to
salvage the project. Now that Mr. Grasso’s been appointed to the Whitehead
Commission, don’t bet against the Stock Exchange moving a few blocks west to
the Trade Center site-an idea Mr. Grasso himself has floated.
Level 6: The developers
John Zuccotti, co-chairman,
Brookfield Financial Properties
Mr. Zuccotti, a deputy mayor during the fiscal
crisis of the 1970’s, has connections to nearly everyone involved in the
redevelopment project. (Mr. Whitehead used to serve on his company’s board; Ira
Millstein , the LMDC’s counsel, is a partner at the law practice
where Mr. Zuccotti moonlights.) It’s a good thing he’s so wired. Brookfield’s
huge World Financial Center and 1 Liberty Plaza were left empty for months
after the attacks, and not all the tenants are coming back. Mr. Zuccotti and
Brookfield chief executive Ric Clark are pushing to spend big on
bringing more trains downtown-and more workers within walking distance of their
buildings. He and Mr. Silverstein have announced plans to collaborate on the
World Trade Center redesign. But if Mr. Silverstein gets forced out, don’t be
surprised to see Brookfield step in.
Along with Mr. Zuccotti, he’d be at the top of the
list of developers in line to replace Mr. Silverstein if he falters.
Over the last few months, more than one insider has
sighed: “If only Lew Rudin were alive …. ” Rudin, the recently deceased
real-estate magnate, played a key role in rebuilding the city after the
debacles of the 70’s. His son Bill inherited the family’s extensive downtown
holdings. Whether he also picks up his father’s mantle as “Mr. New York”
remains to be seen. But Rudin fils has
already shown signs of becoming a powerful political insider, serving on Mr.
Bloomberg’s transition team and championing Mr. Doctoroff’s appointment as
7: Albany and New Jersey
Sheldon Silver, Assembly Speaker
Mr. Silver is the most powerful Democrat in Albany.
The World Trade Center is in his district. Yet he’s been shut out of the
redevelopment process almost entirely. “[It’s] clearly partisan,” he said in
Senate Majority Leader
But it’s not just Democrats who are whining. Mr.
Bruno, a Republican, was so miffed at being left off Mr. Pataki’s spiffy new
committee that he started his own redevelopment task force. Uh oh . The Governor’s men scrambled to
create a special advisory board to the LMDC to make Mr. Silver and Mr. Bruno
feel included. Insiders say it has the power to soothe hurt feelings-but won’t
do much else.
James E. McGreevey
With a top campaign contributor-real-estate
developer Charles Kushner-waiting in the wings to take over the Port Authority
chairmanship, New Jersey’s new Democratic governor is about to make his
presence felt in the redevelopment. The current chairman, Jack Sinagra , a former Republican state senator in New Jersey, has
won good reviews for his working relationship with New York. Expect Mr. Kushner
to make more waves.
Lewis Eisenberg, co-chairman,
Granite Capital Partners
Mr. Eisenberg used to chair
the Port Authority. Now he’s New Jersey’s man on the development corporation’s
board. He’s also the new chief fund-raiser for the Republican National
Committee-making him a crucial conduit between the board and the White House
and national Republicans, who hold the purse strings on federal aid.
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton
and Chuck Schumer
There’s no question that it was, in the
now-infamous words of Bush budget director Mitchell Daniels , a money-grubbing
game. But how well they grubbed! After Mr. Daniels’ famous press conference
backtracking on the Bush administration’s $20 billion pledge to New York, Mr.
Schumer and Mrs. Clinton smote Mr. Daniels and his boss but good. In the end,
Hillary and Chuck’s inside-outside routine resulted in a tad more aid than
expected. Cynical question: In hindsight, did picking a public fight over Mr.
Bush’s promised $20 billion in federal aid turn what had been a floor into a
President George W. Bush
What did $21.4 billion buy
Mr. Bush? Silence. After spending the better part of six months questioning Mr.
Bush’s commitment to New York, Mr. Schumer is now playing the good soldier.
“This is a package that is generous for New York,” he said, smiling for the
cameras at a press conference announcing the aid package. But how long can that
last? People like Representative Jerry
Nadler , who represents the Trade Center district, have been arguing for Mr.
Whitehead’s commission to spend its first $2 billion fast-so they can plead for
Roland Betts, chairman,
When Mr. Betts calls the White House, Mr.
Bush calls back. And that makes the President’s old frat buddy one of the key
members of the LMDC board-perhaps even more important, over the long term, than
Mr. Whitehead, some redevelopment insiders say. Mr. Betts has thrown himself
into the planning process, smoothing the way for a private tête-à-tête between
Mr. Whitehead and the President.
9: The planners
Amanda Burden, chairwoman,
City Planning Commission
Earlier this year, Ms. Burden
edged out fellow planning commissioner Alex Garvin for the city’s top planning
job. Now Mr. Garvin is drawing the plans for a rethought lower Manhattan, and
Ms. Burden is … well, her role is undefined, to say the least. But civic groups
and advocates for good design-the people affectionately known as the
“goo-goos”-have high hopes for Ms. Burden.
Bob Yaro, president,
Regional Plan Association
Meanwhile, a few blocks down Broadway, the goo-goos
are getting a far less sympathetic hearing from the LMDC. People like Mr. Yaro,
who started a group called the Civic Alliance to study the Trade Center site
and come up with public uses for the land, are arguing for patience. But Mr.
Silverstein’s push to start rebuilding 7 World Trade Center without an overall
plan probably has too much momentum. On the other hand, “reimposing the
streetscape,” as the planners say, has met with almost total consensus.
Madelyn Wils, chairwoman, Community Board 1
Ms. Wils, the lone community representative on the
LMDC, has been a voice for careful consideration as the redevelopment process
has barreled forward. She gave Mr. Silverstein his first speeding ticket for 7
World Trade (she now says he’s listening), and doesn’t mind asking tough
questions of her fellow board members-even within earshot of the press corps.
Marilyn Taylor, chairwoman,
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
In the frantic early days after Sept. 11, new civic
groups were forming by the hour to come up with ideas for lower Manhattan’s
redevelopment. And Ms. Taylor seemed to have a hand in all of them. That
sparked some muted criticism over divided loyalties-Skidmore, after all, was
working for Mr. Silverstein, and Ms. Taylor’s kept a low profile of late. But
the committee she co-founded, the New York City Infrastructure Task Force,
recently issued its findings, and her architects, working for Mr. Silverstein,
will be in a position to put them into effect.