Viewpoint: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey�s Chris Ward
The World Trade Center has you in the news more than anything else, so let�s start there. Where are we on those projects?
CW: If you look at One World Trade, we�re in good shape. The steel is now rising. It�s about 26 stories above grade. We�re at the point, now, where we�re hoping to start getting a floor done every week and a half. So by September we should be at 50 stories and by September of next year we should be literally be topping out.
We�re doing the excavation and preliminary foundation at the transit hub, too. You really can�t see of that work, yet, but you can see the outlines of [architect Santiago] Calatrava�s signature arches for the East/West PATH Mezzanine. That will be done in the first quarter of 2014.
On Tower 4, Larry Silverstein is going gangbusters down there. He�s been waiting for this for a long time and it looks like it will be up by the end of 2013 with tenants probably in the beginning of 2014. They�re about six stories up right now, so they�re moving.
What about the 9/11 Memorial?
CW: When we took over the project two years ago one of the things we said was that the memorial plaza would have to be finished by 2011. We�ll have the plaza fully poured by September of this year and we expect the plaza to be completed, with the fountains functioning by the anniversary next year. The museum will open a year later in 2012.
What is different about the deal you just reached with Silverstein and the other supposed deals that have been in place?
CW: This one is fundamentally a business deal with a real construction schedule. The earlier deal � the 2006 agreement � was kind of an �agreement to agree� on future value of real estate. It didn�t actually say when things started, how much they were going to cost and what the schedule would be to get them done. So this is a real deal. There�s a framework for how everything gets financed. Before it was about putting value together but without putting a schedule and a budget along with it.
Is this what should have been done all along?
CW: People don�t realize how complex taking that World Trade Center agreement that Larry signed two months before the attack - a 99-year lease - then applying that lease framework to a site that is 100 percent different than what the original lease was intended for. The 2006 agreement was an acknowledgment that the project just could happen, financially. And that was before the whole recession. This was never a simple real estate transaction.
How accurate were all the reports of acrimony between the two sides when this deal was being hammered out?
CW: (laughs) We were in a tough place, let�s be clear. When you have a public entity and a private real estate developer there are two completely different sets of priorities and values, two different bottom lines. Larry saw the public sector as his bank. He saw the need to build downtown, and the rhetoric associated with the need to build downtown should have forced us to build those buildings. But we just couldn�t do it. It could have cost us $5 billion of our capacity to build those three buildings. And the overlay of the rhetoric for downtown just made it that much more difficult.
The reason why we scrapped the �Freedom Tower� and renamed it One World Trade is because America doesn�t have to define itself by freedom and attaching it to a building. That sort of rhetoric entered into the negotiations. Somehow we weren�t fulfilling our public obligation to build. We always felt that the success of downtown wasn�t going to be defined by office buildings.
Now that you�ve been with the Port Authority for two years, do you have a list of victories and defeats that you keep tallied in your head?
CW: The main thing for me is the deal that we did downtown. That was a beast. My biggest regret is that we don�t have the resources to do the things I�d like to. I regret having to cut our budget and that we don�t have the money to do more things in the region.
View the transcript of this entire interview at http://newyork.construction.com