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NY-NJ Port Authority aims to end WTC bond spat soon

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hopes to resolve a spat with Fidelity over the seniority of bondholders so that $1.3 billion of Liberty bonds can be sold by late September, Chris Ward, the authority's executive director, told Reuters on Thursday.

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center complex, dogged by delays and cost overruns, also faces an engineering challenge -- whether the underground garage can be finished six months early to avoid delaying work on the interiors of some towers.

The above-ground memorial with its plaza and one working waterfall were finished first -- in time for the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks -- so all of the fixtures, lighting, and desks for some of the new skyscrapers will have to be trucked in through the garage, Ward said.

The Authority hit on a novel approach to get the memorial for the nearly 3,000 who died in the attacks ready two years earlier than expected -- in time for the 10th anniversary.

"People don't know how close we were to losing this project three years ago," said Ward. Federal officials were "enormously frustrated with the delays," he said.

His agency owns the site, which curbs Mayor Michael Bloomberg's influence. But the mayor insisted the memorial had to be finished first and warned that the delays might mean the site was still just a hole in the ground on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

AN "UPSIDE DOWN" SUCCESS

One August night three years ago, Ward said he and his team solved the problem by flipping the normal order of construction work, building from the top down instead of starting on the bottom on Manhattan bedrock, and then building up.

"We turned it upside down so we could deliver this (the memorial) on the 10th anniversary," he said, "We built the ceiling of the PATH train station and the floor of the memorial all at once."

But the Liberty bond financing for World Trade Center Tower 4 still has to be finalized.

"We think Fidelity misunderstood the fundamental structure and are fully prepared to adjust to their potential concerns," Ward said.

The Liberty bonds will help pay for Tower 4, one of the three on-site skyscrapers that developer Larry Silverstein is building.

"Hopefully, all the financing for Tower 4 will be in place by October at the latest," Ward said.

A spokeswoman for Fidelity, the Boston-based mutual fund giant, declined comment.

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jan Paschal)

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