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New York considers Ground Zero land trade

Ground Zero
The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site and has put forward six proposals for rebuilding the area.  

From Lauren Rivera

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York officials are considering a land swap that would give the city complete control of Ground Zero, where World Trade Center once stood, officials involved in the plan said Saturday.

Under the proposal, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land, would trade the site for the city-owned land under New York's John F. Kennedy and La Guardia airports. The deal would cut the Port Authority out of the rebuilding process.

Officials said the deal was feasible, but predicted it would not be easy to negotiate.

A city spokesman would not comment directly on the proposal.

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"A lot of interesting ideas are being circulated, and the mayor is exploring all of them," said Ed Skyler, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Port Authority chairman Jack G. Sinagra told The Associated Press the plan deserved "serious consideration."

"In concept, it would be consistent with the Port Authority's core mission of transportation," Sinagra said. "If the city is serious about pursuing this idea, we would welcome such a discussion."

The Port Authority, controlled by the governors of both New York and New Jersey, proposed six rebuilding plans for the World Trade Center site last month. The preliminary schemes included office buildings, a memorial for victims of the September 11 attack, open park space and other amenities at the site.

At the Port Authority's insistence, all the proposals replaced the 11 million square feet of office space lost when the 110-story twin towers and five smaller buildings were destroyed. But some of the victims' families criticized the plans for making the replacement of office space too much of a priority.

Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which released the plans, described them as "a starting point." The public in general found them cluttered and uninspiring at a July 20 forum to discuss the plans.

The Port Authority is legally bound to try to restore what was there, as it had leased the World Trade Center last July to a private developer, Larry Silverstein, who has the right to rebuild. Silverstein is embroiled in litigation with his insurers to claim between $3.5 and $7 billion in relief payments.

The Port Authority's lease on the land under LaGuardia and JFK airports expire in 2015, and the agency has been negotiating with the city to renew the leases. It currently pays New York $3 million per year for the use of the land.

-- CNN Producers Lauren Rivera and Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.




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