Caution is key in WTC development: Ward

By Amy Tennery | March 11, 2010 12:33PM

Criticism levied against the construction pace at the World Trade Center is too robust, Chris Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, told The Real Deal this morning after a New York Building Congress breakfast forum.

When asked about the disappointment city officials, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have expressed over the World Trade Center progress, Ward said it was not a national embarrassment, as Lou Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association, had said at this week’s labor rally.

“I would hate to think that we continue to beat ourselves up when we don’t have to. [The site] will be the foundation for [developer] Larry Silverstein to build [on],” Ward said.

Although Ward said he wouldn’t comment on the ongoing fiscal negotiations at the World Trade Center between the Port Authority and Silverstein, he said at the forum that caution is crucial when moving forward with the development plans, particularly given the current economic landscape.

 “Let’s build what we know we need today,” Ward said before the crowd at the Midtown Hilton, noting that the negotiations are particularly tricky because they involve public and private entities. “But let’s not so use public resources that we might build monuments that one day [could] become empty buildings.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with Ward’s take. An op-ed in today’s New York Times, penned by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, criticized the Port Authority for not being receptive to a compromise that the two officials pitched months ago, which would require “Silverstein to invest significantly more equity and take on more risk, and the Port Authority to provide more temporary credit assistance to move construction forward on both towers.”