The Biggest Shrug

“The public—they’re fed up,” said Doug Muzzio, a politics professor at Baruch College. “They’re tired. They’re immune to all of it. They have such low expectations. They’re thinking, ‘Oh, they’re fucking up again. As usual.’”

It doesn’t help that there are no feel-good solutions to the current impasse, as Mr. Silverstein, the developer, is demanding a major commitment of public funds from a reluctant public sector, which he says owes him on account of delays. When Mr. Bloomberg and the powerful Mr. Silver tried to resolve it, their solution, billions in public-financing guarantees to support two towers, was a cost so high that Mr. Paterson and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (who shares control of the site) instead opted for a continued stalemate and a legal battle, effectively rejecting Mr. Silverstein in early August. A stalemate the governors got—and save critical statements from Messrs. Bloomberg, Silver and Silverstein, silence reigns over the issue now in the city’s political arena.

For his part, Mr. Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, contends that the topic is far from dead as a political issue, and that the public and political outrage is in hibernation.

“I think we’re somewhat a victim of circumstance,” he said in an interview on Sept. 8. “This is the third governor since 9/11, so he’s removing himself from it, saying, ‘This is not my fault,’” Mr. Silver said. “Governor Corzine has a tough reelection campaign—he can’t be stepping out publicly and saying, ‘We need a good project in Manhattan.’

“It’s not just something that’s fading into memory. It’s a priority. Truthfully, I would say that it’s an international embarrassment.”

So when would the World Trade Center as a paramount issue resurface, if ever? There is still time in the mayor’s race before Election Day in November, though to date, challenger Bill Thompson has hardly said a word on the topic, let alone tried to pin the mess on Mayor Bloomberg. (As many political consultants pointed out, Mr. Bloomberg is the one main official who’s actually been around for the entirety of the reconstruction efforts, though the site is officially the purview of the Port Authority.)

Mr. Silver took a longer-term view, suggesting the issue was likely to resurface in 2010.

“You’ve got a gubernatorial election next year,” he said. “It’s going to wind up being an issue in that. No question in my mind.”

ebrown@observer.com