From the NY Times.

Tenuous Grip on Rebuilding Could Hurt Bloomberg's Term


ayor Michael R. Bloomberg's performance as mayor is likely to be measured in large part by his success at leading New York City to a consensus on what should happen with the World Trade Center site, and the pace and quality of the subsequent rebuilding.

But it will not be easy. As it turns out, Mr. Bloomberg has more authority to suspend alternate side of the street parking regulations than in determining the course of what happens on the tract of land just south of City Hall.

In another example of a trend in New York governance that began with the fiscal crisis of the 1970's — Albany usurping the authority of New York City — Mr. Bloomberg's role in controlling what is almost certain to be the most critical decision of his first term was constrained before he ever set foot in City Hall. By that time, Gov. George E. Pataki had appointed a commission, with its power weighted toward Albany, to chart the reconstruction of the trade center site.

The 11-member Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, created by Mr. Pataki three weeks after Mr. Bloomberg was elected, consists of seven people chosen by the governor and four chosen by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was still mayor at the time. Its executive director is one of Mr. Pataki's closest confidants, a businessman who lives in Voorheesville, N.Y., about 160 miles north of New York City.

Mr. Pataki, who is facing re-election this November, moved swiftly to appoint the commission and assure his control of the process, after a mayoral campaign in which Mr. Bloomberg argued against the creation of a state-city commission. Mr. Bloomberg said he believed such a commission would hinder rather than help the rebuilding process. An aide said yesterday that Mr. Bloomberg's view on that had not changed.

Characteristically, Mr. Bloomberg has avoided criticizing Mr. Pataki on the subject, repeatedly stating that he could work with the arrangements and that the appointees chosen by Mr. Giuliani were reviewed by him before they were put in place. He has noted as well his personal and business relationship with the chairman of the corporation, John C. Whitehead.

But the unexpectedly fast pace of the cleanup means that decisions about what to do with the site, which once seemed a long way off, suddenly seem to be nearly around the corner. And with that forced focus, some of Mr. Bloomberg's advisers, as well as some Democratic officials with no ties to Mr. Bloomberg, are expressing some reservations about the development corporation, suggesting that the current mayor finds himself being judged as a result of a process over which he has only partial control.

One of Mr. Bloomberg's advisers tautly speculated that the Bloomberg reconstruction effort would inevitably be measured against the speed and efficiency of the cleanup effort that was largely overseen by Mr. Giuliani.

The complexities have become particularly apparent in recent days, with the announcement by some corporations that they were moving employees out of New York, and with the growing signs of struggle between family members of victims and business leaders about how much of the site should be turned into a memorial. Several political leaders noted the juxtaposition of those developments with the notably deliberate pace of the development corporation, as it slowly prepares for the decisions ahead.

"It is a big issue, and my sense is so far, Bloomberg hasn't really grabbed a hold of it and said, `This is going to be my issue,' " said William B. Eimicke, a political science professor at Columbia University. "This could be a signature for him. If you really want to be poetic, this could be him picking up the torch from Rudy: Rudy led us through the crisis, and Bloomberg does the revitalization. Comes up with the grand plan. And that's his signature."

In recent days, Mr. Bloomberg has seemed to be trying to seize some control over the process. He has taken to pointedly noting that Mr. Giuliani's appointees serve "at my pleasure," suggesting that he may replace them if he is unhappy with their performance, a conclusion that an aide to Mr. Bloomberg said was based on a private assurance given to the new mayor by Mr. Pataki.

Even if Mr. Bloomberg signed off on the Giuliani appointees, he clearly does not view them as part of his team. In recent days, Mr. Bloomberg's advisers have gone out of their way to note that one of Mr. Giuliani's appointees is Robert M. Harding, a former deputy mayor, who Mr. Bloomberg's aides said had not given the new mayor a complete briefing on a tentative deal Mr. Giuliani had worked out with the Yankees and the Mets about constructing new stadiums.

Mr. Bloomberg will devote a large part of his first annual address to the City Council today to his views on the future of the site, one adviser said.

And Mr. Bloomberg's deputy mayor for economic development, Daniel L. Doctoroff, has been a constant figure at the early meetings of the board, according to board members. Mr. Doctoroff asserted that the city would be able to wield control over the process, notwithstanding the lopsided makeup of the board.

"Undoubtedly, there are going to be issues where people disagree," Mr. Doctoroff said. But, he added, "everybody recognizes that this is the future of Lower Manhattan, and therefore New York City, and that New York City has got to play a critical role in defining its future."

That said, the commission remains a long way off from struggling with the difficult issues that await it. Until now, Mr. Bloomberg was consumed with the process of putting together a government, preparing for the annual address to the Council and drafting his first budget.

To a certain extent, there is a bit of a dance going on between Mr. Pataki and Mr. Bloomberg. The standings of both men will be enhanced with a successful resolution of this project; just as surely, each could be hurt if the project falters, or if there is any perception that the two men are quarreling over a project of such import.

All this is going on during what has traditionally been a period of adjustment in New York, when a new mayor tries to establish a relationship with a governor. Historically, this is a relationship fraught with competition and friction, though aides to both men were quick to say that that would not be the case over this issue.

"It's really important that the city of New York and the state of New York, that the governor and the mayor, work very closely together," said Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, who is one of Mr. Pataki's senior advisers. "It means the mayor and the governor working very closely. And so far — and I have no reason to see anything different — right now they have a great working relationship."

And the mayor and the governor have different needs here. Mr. Bloomberg is four years away from another election, assuming he runs again. Mr. Pataki faces re-election this November, and thus can ill afford to let the process run out of control. Several Republicans and Democrats noted that beyond the emotional and aesthetic forces at play, the reconstruction project will involve the awarding of billions of dollars in work to all kinds of companies and firms, including many that have long been supportive of Mr. Pataki's political campaigns.

Still, in the end, it seems likely that the mayor of New York is the one who will be judged by what happens on the patch of land where the World Trade Center once stood. Mr. Doctoroff said that the meetings of the development board to date have been notable for their comity, but it seems inevitable that there will be difficult times ahead.

"Somebody has got to be the leader here," Mr. Eimicke said. "Someone has to pull this consensus together. And the obvious leader here is the mayor."