Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Silver Lining at Ground Zero

With all of the controversy swirling around the GZM-and with the mayor suddenly emerging from his normally somnabulent state to jump start his nascent emotions-we have lost sight of the fact that there is still a giant whole in the ground. Nine years after Mike Bloomberg came out of nowhere to become NYC mayor-propelled by the events of 9/11-we are now finally about to get a deal approved with billionaire Larry Silverstein, the disgraceful owner of the rights to build on the devastated site of the terror attack.

City Room has the story: "The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to convene Thursday to formally ratify a plan that would allow the developer Larry A. Silverstein to build two office towers at ground zero with up to $1.6 billion in public financing and subsidies, according to Port Authority and real estate executives. Mr. Silverstein, who leased the trade center six weeks before it was destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attack, has already started construction of one tower on Church Street, at the southeast corner of the 16-acre trade center site. Under the terms of the development plan, the authority would provide about $1 billion in financing for that project. If Mr. Silverstein is able to raise at least $300 million in cash for the second tower on an adjacent site and secure leases for tenants, the authority, state and city would provide $600 million in subsidies."

So while the world is focusing on the mayor's version of, "Cry the Beloved Country," no one-least of all maudlin Mike-is paying attention to how Larry Silverstein is holding up the city and state for a kings ransom: "After years of delays and missteps, the trade center site is crowded today with thousands of workers. The authority is building a skyscraper — the $3.2 billion 1 World Trade Center — as well as the national memorial and a $3.2 billion transit hub. Mr. Silverstein, who has put little of his own cash into rebuilding other than insurance money, had sought to have the authority finance all three of his towers after he was unable to obtain private financing and secure tenants. The authority balked, in part, because of the weak economy and the real estate markets." (emphasis added)

Nor is anyone focusing on the mayor's malfeasance regarding the rebuilding effort-something that should have been his priority number 1, and signature issue of his mayoralty. Perhaps there's a bit of Machiavellian intrigue involved in the mayor's soap box posturing on the mosque-a classic case in misdirection in our view.

So, while the mayor rails against mosque critics in the name of private property and the first amendment, we are supposed to forget that he has allowed the disreputable Silverstein to drag his feet over rebuilding while haggling over just how much the public will be forced to foot the bill for a property that he had owned for five minutes before the planes struck on 9/11. And where's Bloomberg's fiduciary responsibility here-allowing his billionaire brother to socialize the risk and privatize the rebuilding profit? "Still, some board members said they were only reluctantly approving the plan, which they say still allows Mr. Silverstein to profit while a huge public investment is at risk, if the towers do not find tenants at adequate rents."

As we have already commented Mike Bloomberg, the scourge of the small property owner in NYC, has allowed Silverstein to skate when it is precisely this kind of public project that the whole concept of eminent domain was designed for. The mayor's lassitude in this case has us wondering once again whether the class of the developer has colored the mayor's view of the development. One City Room commenter nails this: "This makes no sense. Seize the property through eminent domain. Then let the government auction the property off to raise revenue. Imagine the nerve of this greedy developer to ask for subsidies during these difficult economic times. Bloomberg should take him to court over eminent domain, and seize the property. Who the heck would give this greedy landlord a subsidy?"

Apparently, Sleep-at-the-Switch Mike would. If Mike Bloomberg had been diligent with regard to what even the president has called, Hallowed Ground," the entire area would have been designated for redevelopment for an agreed upon public vision for the site-and the slippery Silverstein would have been sent packing years ago. And, by the way, the entire surrounding area could have been included-eliminating the sleazy strip clubs and other inappropriate retail uses around GZ.

Instead, Mike left this most important task to something called the Porty Authority-as dysfunctional an entity as we have this side of the  MTA. The mayor was too busy trying to take Nick Sprayregen's property in West Harlem and Irene Presti's land in Willets Point-folks who definitely don't travel in Bloomberg's lofty social circle.

So, while the world debates the merits of the mayor's new found public passion for "core American values,", we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that in his most important task-remembering the dead who gave their lives to the misguided religious vision of 19 Islamists-Mike Bloomberg was simply nowhere to be found. It seems that when it comes to simple patriotism Mike Bloomberg is MIA-and his travels to Governor's Island to make a speech in defense of a mosque, shows just how far away he is from the core values of the American people.