World Trade Centre rebuilding chief quits

NEW YORK - A leader of the troubled plan to develop the site of the World Trade Centre said yesterday he would resign at the end of the month, citing the wishes of his family and doctor.

John Whitehead, 84, will step down May 31 as chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which he helped create to oversee the rebuilding of the area devastated by the September 11 attacks. There was no word of who would succeed him.

Whitehead said in a statement he had wanted to step down for some time but stayed on at the urging of New York Gov. George Pataki and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

His announcement came two weeks after the developer and landowner reached an agreement on constructing four office towers that would replace most of the 930,000 square metres of office space lost when the Twin Towers were destroyed.

But just after that long dispute was resolved, the rebuilding fell victim to a feud over the memorial for the nearly 3,000 people who died on September 11.

The memorial's estimated cost has soared to $1 billion ($1.58bn) - double what Pataki and Bloomberg say should be spent. That could force an overhaul of the design, which would mark the Twin Towers' footprints with reflecting pools fed by waterfalls.

"I am sorry to have to make this announcement at such a challenging moment, but my family and now my doctor have become increasingly insistent," Whitehead, former chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., said.

He said "general decisions" about the memorial could be made before he leaves. "I believe in the next few weeks we can settle on the cost problem, the memorial funding and get the building under way."

- REUTERS

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