Bloomberg Seeks Control Over Ground Zero

By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jan 26, 8:58 PM ET

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his State of the City address Thursday to muscle his way into the debate over rebuilding at the World Trade Center, urging a developer to give up control over part of the project.

Bloomberg blasted the redevelopment plan for the swath of Lower Manhattan that was scarred by the 2001 terrorist attack, a project largely led by Gov. George Pataki throughout the mayor's first term.

The redevelopment will stall, Bloomberg said, unless the timeline is revised and rebuilding efforts accelerated.

"We need this now, to advance our economy and pay tribute to those who died there — not a decade and a half in the future, when it fits a developer's financial plan," he said.

The mayor was referring to a collection of smaller skyscrapers planned around the ambitious 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, which is in the early stages of construction. Groundbreaking for the trade center memorial is scheduled to begin this spring, but the current timeline does not have the complex finished until 2015.

The mayor said trade center developer Larry Silverstein should give up control over two key towers planned for ground zero in exchange for rent reduction, and allow the city to take over so the projects can proceed more quickly.

Janno Lieber, director of World Trade Center development for Silverstein's organization, said the group was not responsible for construction delays. He said the Port Authority must first excavate the site and make other preparations before the buildings can go up.

After the mayor's speech, a Pataki spokeswoman said the governor last month asked the Port Authority to reassess Silverstein's role at ground zero and report to him by mid-March.

Bloomberg also signaled that he will crack down on illegal guns after the recent shooting deaths of two police officers. He described a program that would require gun offenders to register and update their addresses with law enforcement, and a push to make criminal possession of a loaded weapon a felony with a minimum 3 1/2-year sentence.

Both proposals would require the state Legislature's approval.

The mayor acknowledged that many illegal guns come from other states, but warned that the city will begin to hold gun dealers "accountable for the terrible damage their guns cause."