Who’s at Center of Ground Zero? Permanent Elite

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

static?

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

campaign issue.

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.

Level

1: The Governor

George Pataki

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

Port Authority

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.

Larry Silverstein

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 bereaved

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.

Level 3:

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.

John

Whitehead,

chairman, Lower Manhattan

Development Corporation

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,

LMDC

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

official said.

Level

4: City Hall

Michael Bloomberg

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.

Rudy Giuliani

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.

Jerry Speyer,

Tishman-Speyer Properties

Along with Mr. Zuccotti, he’d be at the top of the

list of developers in line to replace Mr. Silverstein if he falters.

Bill Rudin

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

deputy mayor.

Level

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

November.

Joseph Bruno,

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.

Level

8: Washington

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

ceiling?

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

more money.

Roland Betts, chairman,

Chelsea Piers

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.

Level

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.

Who’s at Center of Ground Zero? Permanent Elite