WTC Rebuilding Agency Back in Business

The Associated Press
Monday, May 21, 2007; 6:28 PM

NEW YORK -- The agency that decided how to rebuild the World Trade Center site is not going out of business but will focus less on planning and more on making sure the hundreds of millions of dollars it has pledged to the site are well spent, its new leaders say.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which once was the most important agency involved in the rebuilding of ground zero and ran competitions for a master plan and a memorial to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, appeared last year to be shutting down.

But it has hundreds of millions of dollars to monitor, several million to spend and new leaders appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer to keep watch over the rebuilding.

"I think it's obvious that the governor is going to utilize this agency that is responsible for ensuring that the revitalized lower Manhattan that has been promised will in fact be delivered," said Avi Schick, chairman of the LMDC's board.

Spitzer last month appointed Schick, who is also president and chief operating officer of the Empire State Development Corp., and new president David Emil, the former owner of the Windows on the World restaurant at the trade center, to take over the agency he once suggested should not continue.

"The site is obviously meaningful to me, emotionally and personally," said Emil, who lost 73 employees in the 2001 attacks.

The LMDC still has the task of completing years-old design guidelines for buildings and facilities at the site, despite the fact that construction has begun on the Freedom Tower skyscraper, the memorial and a transit hub. Emil said the LMDC should know by September how to allocate $45 million set aside for downtown community groups.

Although the agency won't reconsider past planning decisions, Schick said, it is actively involved in planning a performing arts center, which is not completely designed or funded.

Schick and Emil are revisiting one LMDC decision, a proposal in February to demolish almost all of a staircase that took some Sept. 11 survivors from the trade center complex to the street. The 175-ton staircase sits at the site as the last aboveground remnant of the complex.

Schick said the LMDC is working "to devise what we believe is a more complete and appropriate mitigation plan and at the same time to identify a location where the staircase can be moved intact and stored."

He said the LMDC is looking at 10 possible nearby sites for the staircase. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site and is excavating the land around the staircase to prepare for building another office tower, has said it needs to clear the space as soon as possible.

© 2007 The Associated Press