10:31 am May. 1, 20121
At a recent breakfast forum, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye said the September 11 Memorial Museum foundation owed the authority money, and compared the foundation to toll evaders.
The September 11 Memorial Museum, whose foundation is chaired by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is locked in a funding dispute with the Port Authority, which is building the museum. Major work on the museum, which sits at the symbolic heart of the World Trade Center redevelopment site, basically stopped late last year after the authority stopped paying subcontractors.
WCBS reporter Rich Lamb, who participated in a Crain's New York Business breakfast forum April 24, asked Foye, who was also on the panel, whether the foundation owed the Port Authority money.
"The short answer to that is, yes," he said.
"A significant amount of progress has been made," he continued, repeating an assertion he's made many times. "We’re approaching a resolution, and when we’ve got an announcement we will share it with you and Erik."
Crain's editor Erik Engquist, to whom he was referring, asked Foye about the recent restarting of payments to subcontractors at the site, which will presumably make them more willing to restart work again. Foye took issue with the very question.
"Work has never stopped," he said. "Work has continued every work day at the World Trade Center site, there has been work on the museum, yesterday, today, that continues to be the case. So it never stopped. We did release $15 million to pay some subcontractors. We thought that was the right thing to do, and I think frankly reflective of the progress that’s been made in the discussions."
Engquist, following up, asked whether work had been slowed down by the dispute, and if so, why the authority didn't just release the money six months ago.
"Here’s the answer to that question," Foye said. "One of the things I’ve done since I became executive director in November, I feel strongly that if people evade tolls, and owe money to the Port Authority, and are in effect ripping off the law-abiding, toll-paying commuter in the next lane, we’re gonna go after those people, whether they’re corporate or individuals. We have done that aggressively. Where institutions or entities owe us money, we’re gonna be vigilant in collecting that. We’re a public agency. We’ve got a responsibility to the people, whether they’re airlines who pay us fees at the airports, or shipping companies—some of our colleagues from the shipping industry are here this morning—or shipping companies that, or container terminal companies that haven’t paid us. Or individual toll payers. Where we’re being ripped off, we’re gonna be vigilant in collecting every dollar that’s owed us. We believe we’ve got a responsibility to do that. And we’re gonna continue doing that where we think it’s appropriate. And I’m not going to apologize for that."
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