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Mayor Sends Letters To Insurance Companies Urging Them To Pay WTC Claims

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The rebuilding effort at the World Trade Center site may be facing still another delay. This time it's a battle over the insurance money that's supposed to pay for the recovery. But on Friday, as NY1’s Amanda Farinacci reports, the mayor stepped into the fray.

Only a month after developer Larry Silverstein predicted it might happen, six World Trade Center insurance companies are making noises about whether they're going to fork over roughly $770 million in insurance proceeds meant to help rebuild the site.

On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the insurers a clear message — pay up.

“Nobody's going to walk away from billions of dollars, and they're not going to get away with not paying,” said the mayor.

The companies are pointing to a tentative agreement reached between Silverstein and the Port Authority in April divvying up ownership of the site's planned buildings, including the Freedom Tower, which would go to the Port Authority.

The insurers say since Silverstein would no longer own all the buildings at the site, they might no longer be responsible for paying the claims he was due as owner.

Now the mayor has sent a letter to the CEO of each of the companies that reads in part: "I urge you to do the right thing at this critical time in the rebuilding effort - reject unnecessary legalistic delays and hair-splitting - and call upon you to confirm that your company will not seek to use the Conceptual Framework as a pretext for refusing to promptly pay both the Port Authority's and Larry Silverstein's rebuilding costs for the World Trade Center site."

“We have a responsibility to make sure we get paid. I'm convinced this will work out,” said Bloomberg. “You can restructure the deal. If they want to be a stickler for detail, we can restructure the deal to do that.”

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says a lack of leadership on the part of the mayor and Governor George Pataki is to blame for the latest possible delay in rebuilding, charging the two simply point fingers instead of solve problems.

“What are we doing? Where's the certainty? Where's the leadership?” said Silver. “And the mayor and the governor - it is five years and it's time for something to be done besides finding the scapegoat of the month.”

Still, the mayor says he believes the insurers will pay up. And he says he sent the letters as a little bit of insurance for himself.

- Amanda Farinacci

Meanwhile, the mayor says he and the governor will get a final report within a week on cost-cutting changes for the World Trade Center memorial.

There are reports one option on the table would raise the list of victim's names to street level, and slightly reduce the size of the museum.

A developer brought in to help halve the cost of the “Reflecting Absence” design already briefed the two leaders on his revisions. The mayor says they'll get the final recommendations by next week.

“The discussions weren't really about changing design as much as, are there ways to build it more efficiently if you moved something slightly from here to there, if you came in a different direction, if you had more or less of one attribute or another," Bloomberg said Friday.

The mayor also says he's confident the Freedom Tower will be able to secure government leases for much of the space.

This, after an official at the Port Authority said the tower may have to be scaled back if 40 percent of the office space isn't rented by September.
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