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NEW YORK CITY-Board members questioned construction cost increases at public works projects and a monthly retaining fee for real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield on the World Trade Center at the monthly meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Thursday. But, despite a couple of tough volleys, and remarks that this “is not a happy meeting” by one board member, authorizations and re-authorizations were approved. They included the issuance and sale of up to $1 billion in additional consolidated bonds and notes for capital expenditures in connection with the WTC redevelopment.

Board members also voted to retain C&W for its real estate and financial advisory services. A PANYNJ spokesman tells GlobeSt.com these include acting in an advisory capacity in the authority’s current arbitration process with Silverstein Properties Inc. over development at Ground Zero, as well as negotiating a financial agreement with SPI in the future.

Specifically, the board gave the executive director authorization to increase, by up to $2 million, under an existing agreement, bringing the total amount authorized for the services to $4 million.

Despite one assertion that “real estate brokers aren’t all that busy” and neither are “bankers,” board members were directed to the future’s “myriad of possibilities” and anticipated “joint venture relationships” at the WTC.

WTC project manager Steven Platt announced that there had been tremendous progress at One World Trade Center, a.k.a the Freedom Tower. He said the structure would soon rise 160 feet above the ground, and that by the end of January 2010, the building would be visible to all New Yorkers as it reaches the 20th floor.

Meanwhile, just across the street from the rising steel in Battery Park City sits the gleaming new 43-floor headquarters of Goldman Sachs. The Liberty Bond-financed, two-million-square-foot building broke ground Nov. 29, 2005, while the Freedom Tower’s construction started just five months later on April 27, 2006. A Goldman spokeswoman confirmed to GlobeSt.com that the investment bank has in fact already moved in several of its employees.

Saying “we have no choice,” or we’ll “end up with an unfinished building,” board members also voted to reauthorize work on the consolidated Police Crisis Command Center and Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting facility at LaGuardia Airport.

According to PANYNJ documents, the board had originally authorized the design and construction of the ARFF at an estimated project cost of $62.6 million. But at Thursday’s meeting, board members were told the project’s cost had increased to $74.3 million.

The Port says there was a general increase in construction costs, combined with “complexities in the coordination of the communication, security and technology systems with the building design” which it says “presented unique challenges, which resulted in additional planning and engineering costs beyond the original project budget.” Port documents also say “significant staff time was required to configure and coordinate a complex network of security, technology and communication systems, including those used to interact with operations staff and federal state and local agencies.”

Also during Thursday’s meeting, which was webcast, board members complained they’d “not received updated information” along the way, that led to what appeared to be the day’s unwelcome surprise at the airport project.

The new facility, set to open in mid-2010, will serve as headquarters for the police force the Port says is needed at La Guardia and will consolidate police and ARFF functions at a single location. Later, during a reporter Q&A session, executive director Chris Ward said the authority had found itself in a place and time where it would need to interface with the likes of the FBI and that had led to the requirement of a more complex building than originally anticipated. In response to quizzing, Ward said “costs have risen on us.”

Also demanding a larger chunk of cash, the years-long rehabilitation of the 14th Street exit roadway and Jersey Avenue just outside the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City. That project was originally authorized in 1998 when the board had signed off on a rehab of the roadway, drainage, lighting, traffic signs and signals for $21.8 million. Although 98% done, in order to accommodate additional engineering design, construction management costs and re-design work related to the relocation of utilities and “private property” issues, the cost has increased to $26 million.

The board also gave a green light to $2.5 million for the demolition and relocation of two vehicle bridges in the aeronautical area at Kennedy International Airport along with $2 million for the replacement and upgrade of PATH’s substation number eight.

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