NEW YORK The World Trade Center's owner on Monday proposed scrapping the schedule and budget for the prolonged rebuilding of the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying nearly every project is delayed and over budget and that previous estimates are unrealistic.
Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, didn't set new deadlines and budgets for the multibillion-dollar redevelopment at the destroyed trade center complex. He proposed that a committee of developers and government agencies involved in the project meet to set new, "clear and achievable timelines" by the end of September.
"The schedule and cost estimates of the rebuilding effort that have been communicated to the public are not realistic," Ward wrote Monday to Gov. David Paterson, who asked in June for a progress report on the site.
Under current plans, the earliest opening date for the first project at the site the memorial is 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attack. The Freedom Tower and other skyscrapers planned for ground zero aren't expected to open until 2013 at the earliest.
The deadlines for building the office towers, memorial and Sept. 11 museum, a transit hub, and performing arts center at ground zero have been changing almost since planning began. At one point, the plan called for the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower to be ready for occupancy by 2008.
Paterson demanded a quicker pace for a project that has been slowed by political wrangling, passionate arguments about the site's symbolism, rising construction costs and the logistics of building so much at once on such a small space.
Ward listed 15 issues affecting the rebuilding, which he said didn't become clear until full-scale construction began on most projects over the past three years.
A transit hub, featuring a winged dome designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, presents some of the greatest rebuilding obstacles because it affects office towers, the memorial and space for an arts center that surrounds it. Once budgeted at $2.2 billion, estimates have soared as high as $3.4 billion.
Ward said the Port Authority is working on several options to cut costs, including redesigning the dome so that its roof does not open and close as once designed.
He said no centralized command exists to oversee the rebuilding, which "has led to indecision that has resulted in significant schedule delays and cost escalation."
Ward proposed a committee to oversee new timelines that includes private developer Larry Silverstein in charge of building three of five towers the Port Authority, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. rebuilding agency, the mayor's office, the foundation building the memorial and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Two years ago, in the last year of Gov. George Pataki's administration, the agency said it had expedited development at the site by renegotiating a 99-year lease with Silverstein and shifting responsibility for who would build what.
It set clear deadlines and penalties, including $300,000-a-day payments to Silverstein if the agency didn't deliver land on time. The agency has paid Silverstein over $14 million in penalties after missing those deadlines.