Facing heavy scrutiny in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, the Port Authority has promised a new era of transparency, so on Wednesday, the agency’s board held an unusually candid debate about bailing out the stalled construction for 3 World Trade Center, but ultimately put off a vote on the issue. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
It’s supposed to be an 80-story skyscraper, rivaling nearby 1 World Trade Center, but for now, unable to secure enough tenants or financing, 3 World Trade Center is an eight-story stub. So developer Larry Silverstein is asking the Port Authority for a $1.2 billion guarantee, enabling him to move forward.
The plan is backed by a coalition of construction unions and elected officials, but not everyone on the Port Authority board is sold.
"I urge the commissioners to reject this scandalous overreach into the public cookie jar," said Port Authority board member Kenneth Lipper.
"I would not be favor of this deal the way it's presently constructed," said Port Authority board member David Steiner. "Silverstein has too good a deal."
Indeed, with at least three board members expressing serious doubts about the proposal, the Port Authority put off a vote on the 3 World Trade Center deal Wednesday, saying negotiations are not complete. That seemed to come as news to Silverstein Properties, which said the current proposed deal would actually net the Port Authority $500 million over 15 years.
"Those are new benefits to the Port Authority, and if there's more to be discussed, we don't know about it yet," said Janno Lieber of Silverstein Properties.
Regardless, the airing of dissent was unusual for a Port Authority board that rarely debates issues in public.
"If we were to list the top 10 extraordinary moments in the Port Authority's history, the fact that we're having this debate in public with obviously contending opinions is extraordinary, I think," said Port Authority board member Pat Schuber.
"This is a new day at the Port Authority," said Scott Rechler, the acting chairman of the Port Authority.
It's all part of an effort to reform the embattled agency. An internal oversight committee formed to recommend major changes to the Port Authority did not put forth any specifics Wednesday, but did say it would solicit public feedback via email.
As for 3 World Trade Center, a vote is now expected next month.