From today's (14 September) Wall Street Journal:
Trade Center Leaseholder Is Determined To Rebuild, but Will Wait to Make Plans
By Peter Grant
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
The New York developer who led the group that bought a 99-year lease of the World Trade Center said he is determined to help rebuild the complex, as well as 7 World Trade Center, a neighboring office tower that also collapsed in the carnage.
"It would be the tragedy of tragedies not to rebuild this part of New York," said Larry Sliverstein, who closed on the $3.2 billion deal with his partner Westfield America Inc. in late July. "It would give the terrorists the victory they seek," Mr. Silverstein said in an interview from his Fifth Avenue office. He hadn't given any interviews since the attack Tuesday.
Mr. Silverstein, 70 years old, a New York civic leader as well as a prominent developer, emphasized that any planning for rebuilding has to wait until after people deal with the human toll of the tragedy. He said he has been "absolutely staggered" by the loss of life, which may include four of his employees, who are still missing.
A Moral Obligation
He says he also feels a moral obligation to rebuild. "The city is not dead and can't be allowed to die," he says. "We owe it to our children and to our grandchildren."
Other real-estate executives have questioned whether any tenant will ever want to locate in such a tall building after Tueday's terrorist attack. Mr. Silverstein said whatever replaces the World Trade Center won't necessarily have to be so high. He said a memorial for the victims also should be on the site.
Mr. Silverstein, struggling to cope with the overwhelming aftermath of the disaster, yesterday was foced to evacuate his building because of a bomb scare at Grand Central Station. He walked out of his office to see scores of people, many of them hysterical, running away. "It was a horrible scene to witness," he said. "This is a terrible sense of affairs."
Mr. Silverstein says that once the victims of Tuesday's attack are found and their families cared for, he will turn his attention to the insurance, leases and enormous legal issues. The 99-year lease is insured in case of an act of terrorism. As for leases and other documents, many of them were destroyed, he said. "It's going to take huge amounts of time to deal with the magnitude of the paper issues," he says.
A History of Resilience
Resilience has been a trait of Mr. Silverstein's throughout his five-decade careeer in New York real estate.
Many counted Mr. Silverstein out during the real-estate recession of the early 1990s, when financial problems forced him to give back some properties to creditors. But he made a strong comeback that positioned him to bid on the World Trade Center.
He triumphed over much larger public companies in the competition for the World Trade Center, which was leased to the group by its owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Mr. Silverstein said he learned that the first plane had hit one of the Twin Towers when he was at this Manhattan home. He raced down to his Fifth Avenue office in time to watch the second tower get hit. Then he watched in disbelief as first one and then the other tower crumbled. Later in the day the Fire Department told him that the tower he developed at 7 World Trade Center also was about to go.
Mr. Silverstein said he is having a hard time sleeping at night thinking of those images. "It was gut-wrenching in every sense," he says.
Like most developers, Mr. Silverstein financed the deal with just a fraction of his own money.
Two-thirds of the $125 million in equity came from a group led by Lloyd Goldman, the head of another New York real-estate family. Mr. Silverstein formed another group of investors to contribute his third of the equity.
Mr. Goldman said yesterday that he, too, is devastated by the loss of lives and property.
For now, he said, he is "staying out of the way" while authorities deal with the victims and the cleanup. "Right now we're like any other people except for a perverse twist that we have a tie to this horrendous catastrophe."
An unexamined life isn't worth living.