NEW YORK (AP) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein in comments to the New York Daily News editorial board, saying “it would be in the city’s interest to get Silverstein out,” and suggested that schools and residential buildings would make better use of the space at Ground Zero than office towers.

Bloomberg said it would be a good idea to remove Silverstein, who holds a 99-year lease on the twin towers site, but “nobody can figure out how to do it,” the Daily News reported Sunday.

“And can you imagine the stink if you gave him half a billion dollars or a billion dollars in profit to get him out?” he said in a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board Friday.

Silverstein said through a spokesman that Bloomberg’s remarks were confusing.

“Together with the governor, the mayor has frequently urged us to proceed as quickly as possible,” he said. “I believe that New Yorkers want to see rapid rebuilding and not yet another exercise in planning and re-planning. I am confident in downtown’s future as a great business center, and I remain committed to getting it done.”

Asked about Silverstein during a campaign appearance Sunday, Bloomberg backed off from the harsh tone of his earlier remarks but said he must do what’s right for the city.

“We have a developer there,” he said. “The best thing would be to find a ways that he can develop successfully from his own economic point of view and work with the city and produce what’s in the city’s best interest. But in the end I work for the city, and I think if we all put our minds to it, we can get there.”

Bloomberg has said recently he wanted a greater role in the redevelopment of the 16-acre site. His predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, and Gov. George E. Pataki created the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. in 2002 to oversee rebuilding, but Pataki has taken greater leadership of the redevelopment, which also include plans for a memorial, retail and cultural space.

Bloomberg told the Daily News that schools and residential buildings might be a better use of some of the space than office towers. At a Sunday’s campaign stop at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg questioned the need for the 10 million square feet of office space that Silverstein wants to build to replace what was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“There is a question of how much demand there is for additional office space and how much demand there is for residential, and I think it’s time to see what the marketplace really wants, and perhaps we can better accommodate that,” the mayor said.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman said the agency’s charter that created the trade center does not allow residential buildings on the 16-acre site. To change the charter, “you would need a law passed by both the states of New York and New Jersey,” he said.

Coleman added that the agency has a 99-year lease with Silverstein that remains intact as long as he pays the $110 million annual rent and as long as he continues to make progress with redevelopment.

“The mayor’s been part of the ongoing discussions about what’s been going on with the World Trade Center site for the past four years,” Coleman said. “It’s kind of surprising at this point that now we’ve got different ideas for what should be there.”

AP-ES-10-23-05 1511EDT

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