Why Are They Hiding?
Last Updated: 4/11/14 at 11:50 AM
An article in the April 9th New York Post online reported on a Freedom of Information lawsuit we filed on April 4th against the Port Authority of NY & NJ: “A citizen watchdog slapped the beleaguered Port Authority with a lawsuit because the agency has refused to hand over financial information about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.”
Later in the day, a New York Daily News report on the TTA suit concluded: “Margaret Donovan, a co-founder of The Twin Towers Alliance, says her group has been asking the PA for three years to show where $8 billion in taxpayer funds went. A Silverstein spokesman said the developer has already paid the bistate agency $3 billion.”
We don’t doubt that he has paid the PA $3 billion, but want to know how much of it came from the insurance that was provided to rebuild the World Trade Center. For instance, it is said that he gave the Port Authority $1 billion for assuming the burden of constructing the Freedom Tower — a building that has cost the public $4 billion. Of the remaining $2 billion he has paid them, how much of it was for the rent? How much of it went to lawyers? How much to his PR agency?
Since the public is Silverstein’s lender of first and last resort, the least he can provide is full disclosure of what he has received from all public sources and how it has been spent. We should not have to make assumptions on how he spent “his” money, given that he thinks the people are bound to pick up the tab for whatever he can’t afford. At the same time, a man who was a second-tier developer before 2001, now boasts on the company website of having $50 billion dollars in development around the world.
He has profited enormously from his connection to the World Trade Center. But we are wondering what he has ever done to earn it. He signed contracts and gave the Port Authority a personal down payment of $114 million and his backers contributed around $500 million. After the insurance award, he reportedly took that money back. The contracts that Mr. Silverstein signed stipulated that if the buildings were ever damaged or destroyed, the “Premises” were to be rebuilt by Silverstein Properties “with the plans and specifications for the same as they existed prior to such damage or destruction.”
Furthermore, Silverstein was responsible for clearing the destruction at his own expense. Did he contribute anything to the taxpayer funded clean up? He got the insurance money after paying one or two premiums because he paid for the right and signed the contracts. He then took back the money, failed to perform on his contractual obligations, and has shifted his burden onto the backs of the regions commuters. So what is his claim to the site?
Why should we have to guess at what he paid and why the Port Authority took over so much of his burden? How much of the insurance money Mr. Silverstein was paid actually went into construction and how much of it was used as business interruption funds? Mr. Silverstein and his spokesmen having been complaining for years that they were paying rent for buildings that didn’t exist. But when it is understood that he was paying his lease with insurance money that he was awarded to rebuild the space that was destroyed, that changes him from a long-suffering businessman to a very sharp wheeler-dealer.
So, now he wants the Port Authority to dig deeper into the publics pockets the information we have been requesting becomes more relevant than ever. A 2010 arbitration accord stipulated that if he could find an anchor tenant to lease 400,00 square feet, and come up with $300K in private equity, the city, state, and Port Authority would each supply $200K. Now, he is lobbying hard for the Port Authority to make that a $1.2 billion construction loan instead.
The Port Authority took two-and-a-half crucial years to deny the Silverstein documents we requested. They got back to us month after month to say that they were working on it and would reach a decision within weeks. Then, after we pressed for the resolution publicly, at the November and December board meetings, they finally gave us a determination that they could have issued a week after the request. Clearly, if the documents were exempt from disclosure on December 5, 2013, they were exempt from disclosure on September 5, 2011.
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