W.T.C. sphere vetoed for 9/11 Memorial Plaza

The Koenig "sphere" in Battery Park. Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ligato.

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  Though officials have yet to announce the new home for the Fritz Koenig sphere sculpture, one thing’s fairly certain: It’s not going back to where it once stood at the World Trade Center site.

That’s what National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum President Joe Daniels conveyed to members of Community Board 1 at the board’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee meeting on May 14.

The reason behind this? The sphere, which was moved from Ground Zero to Battery Park after surviving the Sept. 11 attacks, was never part of architect Michael Arad’s design of the 9/11 Memorial. It once stood in Austin J. Tobin Plaza, a portion of which was situated on what is now the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.

“We fully, 100 percent support the sphere being kept outside in a way the public can experience whenever they want to, but it’s not going to be incorporated in the eight-acre Memorial Plaza,” said Daniels.

The sphere, reportedly the last remaining intact artifact of the former W.T.C., was supposed to be hauled away to Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy Airport by April 30, according to the Battery Conservancy.

But that deadline came and went without a haul truck or an announcement from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the sphere’s owner.

On May 11, the Port Authority released a statement saying it has settled on a new temporary home for the 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture, to be announced later in the week.

Neither the temporary home nor the new deadline for the sphere’s departure from Battery Park was disclosed by press time on May 15. According to previous reports, Port Authority officials had been considering relocating the sphere to the new Liberty Park — located next to the World Trade Center, its original home.

“We have worked tirelessly to find a new, accessible public space for this important symbol of hope amid devastation,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “We believe this sculpture should continue to reside in a location where New Yorkers and people from around the region, nation and the world can view this important reminder of survival and resilience.”

Meanwhile, 9/11 families and Downtown residents are up in arms about the sphere’s absence from the W.T.C. and, specifically, from the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.

Jeff Mihok, a history teacher who resides in Battery Park City, said the sphere “would be a great counterpoint to the thought-out nature of the rest of the Memorial…to have something shockingly not neat and clean.”

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he noted, was not a “neat and clean” event.

“It seems very crisp and…a little antiseptic,” said Mihok of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. “It shouldn’t be a neat and clean experience to go visit where [the attacks] occurred.”

As previously reported by the Downtown Express, Michael Burke, whose firefighter son died on 9/11, started a petition toward the cause of relocating the sphere to the W.T.C. As of May 14, he had collected more than 7,200 signatures.

“Putting the sphere anywhere else denies its meaning and…betrays the innocents who perished on 9/11,” said Burke.

Burke felt particularly dismayed by Daniels’s statement, since he and other 9/11 families were told by a Port Authority engineer last December that the Memorial was structurally fit to support the 45,000-pound, 25-foot-tall sculpture.

Burke also voiced his opposition to Liberty Plaza as the sphere’s future home, saying it will only exacerbate the security barrier and congestion problems that the locals are bemoaning.

“I would just ask to keep 9/11 all in one place, where it belongs,” he said. “I think that works for everybody.”

T.J. Gilmartin, a 9/11 first responder who also attended the committee meeting, stressed that the 9/11 Memorial Plaza concrete could physically support the structure.

“I’ve been in high-rise construction for 31 years doing concrete,” he said. “You could put 100 of those spheres on that memorial.”

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12 Responses to W.T.C. sphere vetoed for 9/11 Memorial Plaza

  1. I'm pretty certain the Survivor Tree was also not part of the original design of the memorial, but it is now an important feature of the plaza. Various aspects of the memorial, of the memorial's policies, and of the museum's design change from time to time, for various reasons. That process is ongoing, and it benefits everyone.

    During a keynote speech for the annual "Memory & Memorialization" conference at the French Embassy on November 17, 2011, Museum Director Alice Greenwald talked about her work at the Memorial and Museum projects as labs, as experiments. She seemed to understand (and embrace) that many things would change along the way.

    My own work with management of the memorial over the last seven months has also resulted in a few significant changes – ones which were not anticipated prior to my initiating conversations with specific people about specific issues.

    The world is, today, what we all make it become. Things change when enough of the right people want those things to change. It's up to all of us to be sure we move in a good direction. And, as Ms. Greenwald pointed out with her reference to labs and experiments, it is never going to be clear today what exactly tomorrow is going to look like.

  2. Rudolf Rassendyll

    "Crisp, clean, antiseptic". Very good. Add "bureaucratic". Add "appalling lack of taste on the part of those in charge". Add "really dumb".

  3. Jane Pollicino

    How ironic is the journey of this iconic sphere, created as a symbol of world peace and then to have survived an attack which was rooted in hate? The opportunity to go full circle and have it returned to where it always stood and clearly belongs, representing not only peace but now resilience and survial should not be missed. Having something familiar back at the WTC site would be a comforting presence. These decision makers need to have a better pulse on the message of HOPE that the sphere will offer those visiting the memorial plaza.

  4. Jane Pollicino

    How ironic is the journey of this iconic sphere, created as a symbol of world peace and then to have survived an attack which was rooted in hate? The opportunity to go full circle and have it placed where it always stood and clearly belongs, representing not only peace but now resilience and survival, should not be missed. Having something familiar back at the WTC site offers a level of comfort! The few individuals making all of the decisions need to have a better pulse on the message of HOPE that the sphere will offer to all those who visit the memorial plaza.

  5. Lawrence White

    It is difficult to imagine the number of ways this decision qualifies as absurd and wrong. I simply can not fathom how those involved could have screwed up so badly. Their over-starched adherence to a design plan instead of to the overwhelming wishes of the those who experienced 9-11 first hand boggles the mind and breaks the heart. This is a screw up on a gigantic scale. It defines the phrase "what were they thinking?"

  6. Lawrence White

    I did make my comment here – twice – but it is not posted. Is there a good reason why my thoughts are being withheld?

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