The Port Authority held its first board meeting at its new headquarters in lower Manhattan Thursday, a stone's throw from its former home destroyed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Richard Larrabee, the bi-state agency's director of port commerce, who was at work in his office in the north tower when terrorists crashed a commercial jet into the building, said he is reminded of the loss everyday because his new office overlooks the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Among the nearly 3,000 people killed that day were 84 Port Authority employees.
"We could be here. We could be out in Port Newark. The physical location -- although I think there is a real valuable symbolism here -- I do think the organization's strength is not in the location it's in. It's in its people," Larrabee said.
Port Authority employees began the move to 4 World Trade Center in the fall and completed the move in March, with the exception of its office of medical services, according to an agency spokesman. The workers occupy floors 15 through 25.
One of the many matters the authority board took up Thursday was the multibillion-dollar project to rebuild LaGuardia Airport's aging terminal, the Central Terminal Building, which has been delayed yet again, although officials said this is the last time.
"We've asked for one more extension," said Patrick Foye, authority executive director.
Two groups of developers submitted bids, which were initially set to expire in January. The bidders, whom the authority did not name, had agreed to extend it through April to allow a committee, appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, time to review submissions made as part of a design contest to overhaul area airports.
The panel Thursday revealed some of its recommendations, which include the creation of a great hall in the new Central Terminal Building. It also called for connections among the four terminals, and a new hotel with 100 to 200 rooms on airport grounds.
Foye said the panel will issue its final report on LaGuardia in June.
The redevelopment of the 51-year-old terminal at LaGuardia -- derided by Vice President Joe Biden last year as an airport that could be found in "some Third World country" -- should not be delayed by the redesign contest, said Joseph J. Sitt, chairman of Global Gateway Alliance, a group that has lobbied for an overhaul of New York-area airports.
"Not only are these delays a setback for passengers and the region, but [they send] the wrong message to potential bidders on other public-private partnerships that the Port Authority will need to finance future projects," Sitt said.
The $3.6 billion project, which calls for public and private financing, is expected to move ahead this month when the authority, which operates the airport, plans to select one of the finalists to redevelop the terminal.
John J. Degnan, authority chairman, said the bidders have been asked to let the board know by May 11 what, if any, of the recommendations could be incorporated into their proposals."In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done to absorb these recommendations and ascertain whether they're consistent with the current procurement process, which the Port Authority staff and counsel will be engage in over the next several weeks," Degnan said.