Paterson (Finally) Jumps Into WTC Mess

After weeks on the sidelines, Governor Paterson is wading into the battle over financing the rebuilt World Trade Center.

The governor told reporters Monday that he would now be personally involved in talks between landlord Larry Silverstein, the developer for three planned office towers on the site, and the Port Authority, which owns the site. His involvement has delayed a binding arbitration proceeding Silverstein had threatened to begin Monday. The two sides have been at an impasse for months as Silverstein wants the agency to back financing on two of his towers, a fight that could delay numerous other components of the site.

Paterson said he met with Silverstein earlier Monday to discuss the issue.  

“We thought that the conversations were effective enough that we have postponed the binding arbitration date, basically indefinitely, but at least for a couple of weeks,” he said, “to give us a chance to have direct negotiations between Larry Silverstein and the governor’s office.”

With that said, he indicated he has no plans to move away from the Port Authority’s position, which would require Silverstein or some other party to raise between $625 million to well over $1 billion in financing to build out the two towers.

“Where private money is eschewing the opportunity, public money should not be used either,” the governor said. “I insist that we cannot finance anyone else’s project.”

He also said the two sides are no closer today than they were before he and Silverstein met, but he hoped the talks could benefit from his personal involvement. In the past six weeks, his chief of staff, Larry Schwartz, has been involved in discussions, though Paterson suggested he had been preoccupied by the Senate coup.

“You’ve probably read, I’ve been somewhat distracted by these problems in Albany.”

Just how much Paterson can do to break the impasse will be a test of his leadership, as the sides are very far apart.

Governor Paterson's comments come after Mayor Bloomberg sought earlier this summer to bring all sides to a resolution. That spawned more deadlock, with the mayor and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver backing Silverstein's position that the Port Authority put up more money for two of his towers.