Monday, March 19, 2012

9/11 Museum Tussle Hits Subcontractors

An ongoing battle between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum over $150 million in costs at the latter's home costs subcontractors $38 million. The ongoing battle about who is responsible for some of the construction costs at the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum has cost subcontractors roughly $50 million, according to the head of a trade group.

Ron Berger, executive director of the Subcontractors Trade Association, said 12 of his members report that the dispute is costing them $38 million, while a company that isn't part of the organization told him it is out $12 million.

For nearly six months, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum have sparred over who is responsible for $150 million in costs. “It's like there are two elephants having a big fight and we are the grass that's being trampled,” said Mr. Berger.

He said his members have laid out money to buy supplies and pay workers so they have a right to know how the negotiations are progressing, but that instead he's been told nothing substantial about them. “We really want answers,” Mr. Berger said.

A trade organization representative plans to speak at the Port's board meeting on March 29 if there is no resolution before then to highlight the subcontractors' financial plight. The construction companies have contracts with the Port so they say it should be paying them, adding that the agency's issues with the museum have nothing to do with them or their work.

One of the subcontractors, who requested anonymity, said that the Port has always had a good reputation for paying contractors promptly. He said if the Port doesn't start paying soon, it might have problems attracting bids when the economy improves and contractors can afford to be choosier about who they work for.

Construction on the museum has all but stopped, and now there is no way it will be ready to open on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, as was initially planned. One reason the negotiations are dragging on is the Port's decision to simultaneously try to resolve a dispute with the city over security costs even though that feud is unrelated to the museum issue.

Sources said representatives from the Port, the museum and the city are scheduled to meet again Monday to discuss a possible resolution. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the chair of the museum and deputy mayor Robert Steel has been active in the negotiations.

Representatives for the museum and the city declined comment. “We have in the past paid our share of monies owed to parties working on this project and we look forward to continuing to work together with the Memorial to resolve these contractor claims,” said a Port spokesman in a statement.

By Theresa Agovino
Crain's New York Business
March 19, 2012