Silverstein to 60 Minutes: Ground Zero a ‘National Disgrace’

CBS’ 60 Minutes is this Sunday set to launch a piece on the long-troubled redevelopment of the World Trade Center, one the show has been working on for months.

In a brief teaser for the show, Larry Silverstein—the private developer who is signed up to build three of the four towers at the site—tells reporter Scott Pelley that the rebuilding is a “national disgrace,” and, “I am the most frustrated person in the world.”

Based on the teaser, the piece seems a bit sympathetic to Mr. Silverstein, though we’ll find out more when it airs (Sunday at 7 p.m.).

While much of the complex is under construction, two of Mr. Silverstein’s tower sites have remained empty holes without new construction as he and the site’s owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, remain in a fight over financing the towers. Initially, Mr. Silverstein had planned to use his insurance money and tax-free bonds to secure financing and build the towers. Since the economy tanked, that has proved impossible, and the two sides have been battling for over a year on how to proceed. Mr. Silverstein has asked the Port Authority to back the financing on two of his towers, delaying the third indefinitely. The Port Authority has refused, saying it does not have the money.

The standoff threatens the functionality of the entire site, given that many key components, such as a service road and structural supports for the PATH station, were designed to be lodged in Mr. Silverstein’s towers. The Port Authority is devising a plan to build around him, a plan that would surely run in the hundreds of millions of dollars in added costs. 

(Crain’s has a piece today saying that Mr. Silverstein has upped his offer in the negotiations with the Port Authority, offering to put in between $150 million and $250 million, up from $50 million.)

Update: 4:38 p.m.

The Port Authority is not pleased with these remarks. Agency spokesman Steve Sigmund issued a sharply worded statement in response, saying of Mr. Silverstein that “the only pit left on the World Trade Center site is his own”:

It’s really ridiculous for Larry Silverstein to stand on his empty sites, which he refuses to build without a public bailout, and bemoan the lack of progress when the only pit left on the World Trade Center site is his own. The Memorial is taking shape and its steel is 95% complete, One World Trade Center is at 20 stories and rising, and the Transportation Hub and other public infrastructure the Port Authority is responsible for are moving forward, while Larry Silverstein squats on sites that are still holes in the ground.

ebrown@observer.com