NEW YORK — Construction of several ground zero office towers could be put off for decades because of the failing real estate market, the site's owners said Thursday, citing an analysis that projected one skyscraper might not be built and occupied until 35 years after Sept. 11, 2001.
Developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been talking on and off for months about rewriting a 3-year-old agreement that gives the developer rights to build three out of five towers planned at the terror attack site.
Silverstein, unable to get financing for all the towers and with only about $1 billion left in insurance money to pay for them, asked the Port Authority last fall to guarantee financing for two of his towers, officials familiar with the negotiations say.
The Port Authority agreed to back one tower already under construction, where the government agency has agreed to move once it's built. Executive director Chris Ward on Thursday cited the exodus of major financial firms like Merrill Lynch and AIG from downtown Manhattan as a reason to not flood the market with 10 million square feet of office space at the same time — about 2013.
Ward also said that Silverstein was free to build his three towers on his own.
"Mr. Silverstein is asking the public sector to finance, in fact, his buildings," Ward said.
Janno Lieber, who oversees the site for Silverstein, said Thursday that guaranteeing financing for the towers would help generate commercial rents the Port Authority could collect for the 90 years remaining on Silverstein's lease.