NYC mayor has $11 bln dream to galvanize Manhattan

New York City´s mayor on Thursday outlined his $10.6 billion vision to galvanize struggling lower Manhattan, drawing residents, tourists, and foreign firms by offering federal tax breaks and subway links to airports and by creating new land in the harbor.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for the first time explaining how he would rebuild the area hurt so grievously by the Sept. 11 attacks, also called for a string of new parks that would nearly equal 643-acre Central Park in size.

Promises of no new federal taxes would lure foreign firms into moving their headquarters to Lower Manhattan, the mayor said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York. If the Bush administration agreed, those overseas firms would not have to pay federal taxes on their new headquarters -- though they still would pay federal taxes on other U.S. operations.

New land would be created by building out into the East River, he said, displaying a slide showing a sea-level skating rink and buildings as examples. One of the last times new acres were created in Manhattan was when the sprawling World Financial Center was built, west of the World Trade Center.

The Republican´s plan faces daunting obstacles, from getting the money to securing massive zoning law changes to winning approvals from various federal and state agencies. Wall Street has made Lower Manhattan the world´s financial capital, and U.S. banks and brokerages might object to offering foreign firms big breaks on their federal taxes.

New York Gov. George Pataki and New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey share control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site. That gives them an enormous say in rebuilding the site. Spokesmen for the governors were not immediately available.

Bloomberg, by speaking one week before the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. unveils seven designs for the World Trade Center site, partly preempted its plans by going out of his way to say what he did not like about the former complex.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp is a city-state agency created to help rebuild the World Trade Center and distribute billions of dollars of federal aid.

Though he made little mention of what should be built on the site, Bloomberg said the old complex, which initially offered low rents due to its 'voracious' need for tenants, hurt the real estate market. And its underground shopping mall sapped the vitality of stores on the city streets.

Lower Manhattan´s economy, which relies on the depressed financial sector, has struggled mightily since Sept. 11.

Recalling that Central Park was built just after a financial panic and the Empire State Building erected in just 13 months during the Depression, he said: 'If history teaches us anything, it´s that you should never doubt New York.'

Mix of new parks and development
The mayor called for a new Greenwich Square park -- the same size as midtown´s Gramercy Park -- that would be built on top of the mouth of the Battery Tunnel. An open-air market, Fulton Market Square, would revitalize Fulton Street --now home to 99-cent shops, and since Sept. 11, to shuttered stores.

Over the next decade, 10,000 new apartments would be built -- in addition to the 65,000 units the mayor has proposed for all five boroughs. Lower Manhattan developers would get subsidies so that 20 percent of the new apartments could be set aside for people who could not afford market rates.

Developers would use the $293 million of subsidies plus cash received from their insurers for Sept. 11 damage to offer lower apartment rents, according to Bloomberg.

This might sound utopian. But Larry Silverstein, who leased the World Trade Center just months before it was toppled, said developers could lower rents because the insurance money would replace some of the debt they otherwise might have to sell.

Billions of dollars for infrastructure
Bloomberg called for $8.8 billion to be spent on infrastructure -- including $1.5 billion or so at the World Trade Center site. The costlies

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