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    A New, but Polite, Turf Battle at Ground Zero 



Officials have begun scrambling to head off what could become yet another turf battle at ground zero, between the PATH terminal and the future performing arts center.

At issue is the underground portion of the arts center, planned as the future home of the Joyce Theater Foundation and the Signature Theater Company. It is being designed by Frank Gehry for a site between Vesey and Fulton Streets, next to the Freedom Tower. To permit construction of the permanent PATH terminal and transportation hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will move the entrance and exit for the temporary terminal next year from Church Street to Vesey Street. The new passageway will occupy part of the performing arts center site.

"My concern is that this will put an insurmountable obstacle in front of the Joyce and Signature," Madelyn Wils, a director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said after its board met today. She said she was worried that anything that delayed construction or planning of the arts center would jeopardize financing. "It's very difficult — until you know when something is going to get built — to raise funds for it," said Ms. Wils, a former chairwoman of Community Board 1 downtown.

The performing arts center has seemingly become a stepchild in the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, taking a distant second place to the planning of the memorial. With as many as four theaters stacked horizontally, the center promises to be a complex and expensive project, costing many times the $50 million that the development corporation has already pledged to its construction. No final design has been drawn up.

A further complication faced by the arts center is that part of its site may also be occupied by a supplementary vehicle screening center serving the network of underground ramps, parking spaces and loading docks. The principal screening center will be off Liberty Street, under the new Liberty Park. City and state officials who favor the project — referred to by the acronym PAC — are concerned that if the underground portion of the site fills up with other uses, the possibility of developing the performing arts center will effectively be foreclosed.

Today, the development corporation approved a $50,000 contract with Webb Management Services, a cultural consulting firm, and extended its contract with Mr. Gehry's firm, Gehry Partners, so they could help map out the structural foundations needed by the theaters, no matter what the final aboveground design looks like.

In the give and take over the constricted underground space, this would amount to the development corporation staking its claim to certain underground areas. Stefan Pryor, the corporation president, said, "The goal in establishing column locations and more broadly designing the below-grade PAC is to assure that we would avoid incompatibility and develop a common plan that enables simultaneous construction of any potential PATH infrastructure and the necessary PAC infrastructure."

Despite behind-the-scenes tension, officials portrayed the effort in a collaborative light today. Steven Plate, the director of priority capital programs at the Port Authority, said the authority was working closely with the development corporation to ensure that major columns and footings for the theaters could be built alongside the new PATH entrance.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Jennifer Falk, also noted the cooperation among agencies and said, "The administration believes that the performing arts center is an important part of the redeveloped World Trade Center site."

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