Workers at ground zero on March 28, 2008 at New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty )
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is in the final stages of striking a deal for the construction of a Greek Orthodox Church at ground zero, one of the key hurdles that has impeded development at the site.
The executive director of the Port Authority, Christopher Ward, told the local Community Board 1 last night that an agreement with the leaders of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church for an exchange of land needed to provide the congregation with a new home near ground zero had been reached. The church was destroyed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center's South Tower collapsed and obliterated the building.
Mr. Ward later clarified his comments to reporters, saying, "We are finalizing an agreement and I would expect it to be done soon."
The inability to strike a deal with the church has impeded the Port Authority from building the 16-acre site's southern foundation wall and finalizing designs for an underground security screening center. Negotiations stalled over the funding for and exact location of the new church.
Mr. Ward was joined at the hearing by the deputy mayor for economic development, Robert Lieber, the president of World Trade Center Properties, Janno Lieber, the chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., Avi Schick, the president of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, Joseph Daniels, and the president of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, Robert Harvey, who were answering questions from residents and members of the community board about delays at the site.
Also on hand for the meeting was the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver.
The president of Community Board 1, Julie Menin, presented the officials with 10 demands, including that the community board and local residents be provided with a list of realistic deadlines for reconstruction, to be answered by September 30.
Following the meeting Ms. Menin said she was pleased with the candor of the responses. "I was happy to see for the first time I have ever seen since I have been involved in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan that people actually said no. There were some emphatic nos, and that is the right answer because one of the things that has stymied the rebuilding process has been too many platitudes, and too many unrealistic deadlines."