NEW YORK -- Progress was made on Tuesday in two disputes hindering redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, one between feuding architects over what would be the world's tallest structure and the other a financial obstacle.
In court on Tuesday, leaseholder Larry Silverstein's lawyers said they were 48 hours away from settling a legal dispute to pay back GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp., the main lender for the 16-acre site.
GMAC, a unit of General Motors, last month sued Silverstein and the landowner, the bi-state Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, claiming the two were not putting aside enough of the insurance receipts to pay off $550 million in mortgage loans on four buildings.
Insurers have put $1.9 billion into an escrow account controlled by GMAC. Silverstein has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, including $100 million on architects, legal fees, public and government relations, $240 million on rent and $80 million on debt service, a spokesman said.
GMAC would like timely repayment on its loans rather than becoming tied up with protracted redevelopment of the site.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Herman Cahn asked the three parties to return to court on Thursday, giving them two more days to reach a deal that would remove one of the financial obstacles to redeveloping the site.
"The intention is that the pressure remains," Cahn said after a 15-minute conference in his chambers.
If there is no settlement, there will likely be a trial, further dragging out reconstruction, already held up by political infighting and emotions running high after the worst attack on U.S. soil two years ago. New York Gov. George Pataki wants a cornerstone laid by the Aug. 2004 Republican convention to show a city that was recovering from the attacks.
The main dispute is a court battle between developer Silverstein and his insurance companies.
The leaseholder contends that the destruction of the towers by two hijacked airplanes represented two distinct events, entitling him to a double insurance claim of $7 billion. Swiss Re, which has the largest insurance obligation, says it was one coordinated event, entitling him to the contracted amount of a maximum $3.5 billion.
Separately, world-renowned architects David Childs and Daniel Libeskind met for the first time since a meeting ended last Monday with the pair at loggerheads over the design of the "Freedom Tower" sketched by Libeskind as part of his master plan chosen in February.
Participants at the meeting said the men made a commitment to put aside differences and produce one design for the tower, envisioned by Libeskind to stand 1,176 feet high and symbolize U.S. independence in 1776 and restore the skyline shattered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In July, leaseholder Larry Silverstein appointed Childs as lead designer, giving Libeskind a lesser role. Libeskind and Childs, although they had different styles, were to work together on the tower while other architects designed office buildings and a transportation hub.
The master plan also calls for a memorial to the 2,792 victims.
"Larry Silverstein highlighted the need to come to agreement on a consensus design in a matter of weeks," said Janno Lieber, director of World Trade Center redevelopment, which is estimated to cost between $4 billion and $7 billion over 10 years.