NEW YORK (AP) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the developer of the World Trade Center site in comments to a newspaper editorial board, saying space at ground zero might be better used for schools and residential buildings than office towers.

The New York Daily News reported in Sunday’s editions that Bloomberg told its editorial board it would be in the city’s best interest “to get Silverstein out” of the project, referring to developer Larry Silverstein.

Bloomberg said in the meeting Friday 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.”

“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.

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.”

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

“The best thing would be to find a way 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,” he said.

Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, and Gov. George E. Pataki created the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. in 2002 to oversee rebuilding of ground zero, but Pataki has taken greater leadership of the redevelopment, which also includes plans for a memorial, and retail and cultural space.

Bloomberg has said he wants a greater role in the redevelopment of the 16-acre site. He told the Daily News that schools and residential buildings might be a better use of some of the space than office towers.

At a campaign stop Sunday at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg questioned the need for the 10 million square feet of office space Silverstein wants to build to replace what was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“I think it’s time to see what the marketplace really wants, and perhaps we can better accommodate that,” Bloomberg said.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman said the charter that created the trade center does not allow residential buildings and changing the charter would require New York and New Jersey to pass legislation.

AP-ES-10-24-05 0327EDT

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