9/11 museum deal only halfway there

The settlement made between
the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the National Sept. 11 Memorial is a crucial step forward toward resolving the year-long financial impasse that has significantly thwarted progress at the World Trade Center site. Having a written agreement forces both sides to commit to a set of guidelines that didn’t previously exist. It requires the executives and politicians to sit across a table from one another and share budget data, offer construction updates and relay other essential information concerning the build-out of the 9/11 museum.

But the battle is only half over. Without continued leadership and close supervision by the mayor and the governors of New York and New Jersey, the agreement itself could become another flashpoint of contention, and delays at the site could recur. The authorities must now systematically work to implement the agreement.

It is clear that the rebuilding of the shattered site is one of the most complex construction projects in the world. It entails billions of dollars, careful synchronization of construction and the build-out of millions of square feet — not to mention the needed collaboration of a host of stakeholders, contractors, government agencies and elected leaders.

This site can ill afford to be plagued by further discord and delay. Downtown and the world have witnessed what has happened when disputes drag on too long, as exemplified by the financial stand-off between developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority concerning the future office towers.

We hope that the agreement will provide the impetus and framework for resolving the existing problems and preventing future stand-offs.

Moving forward, Downtown community members and 9/11 families must also remain vigilant by holding the involved parties and politicians accountable for construction mishaps, cost overruns and other snags. Community Board 1, in particular, must continue to invite Port Authority and Memorial officials to its committee meetings for updates and answers.

We strongly support the agreement to seek federal funding to cover a share of the estimated $60 million a year needed for operations. A proposed law, were it to pass through Congress, would oblige the federally-funded National Park Service to contribute $20 million annually to the memorial. Once the museum opens, the public should also chip in financially by paying a mandatory admission fee or making a donation at the door.

Not everyone has faith in the settlement. A group of 9/11 families and firefighters is contesting the formation of an advisory board, which, according to the agreement, is meant to mitigate future disputes between the Port Authority and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The group believes that the advisory board will precipitate years of fighting between the Port and the foundation board, and that the only viable solution is for the license of the memorial to be transferred from the memorial to the National Park Service.

One constant that we have learned after 11 years of W.T.C. discussions and deliberations is that not everyone agrees.

The Port Authority must now determine a realistic completion date for the museum. The date should allow for a modest degree of wiggle room so that, in the event of unforeseen delays, the agency doesn’t fall hopelessly behind its benchmark.

Governors Cuomo and Christie, Mayor Bloomberg and the Port Authority must maintain the momentum of this agreement and assure its successful implementation. It is estimated that, once completed, the museum will attract two million visitors annually.

Now is the time for the Port Authority to sprint toward the finish line.

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9 Responses to 9/11 museum deal only halfway there

  1. The assumption that the pending deal is desirable and that the greatest good requires that we just plow ahead with the status quo is precisely the shallow thinking that has made Ground Zero such a huge letdown. To write off the objections of "a group" of 9/11 families and firefighters as a mere difference of opinion is a disservice.

    Bloomberg took over the Memorial to promote fundraising and fiscal prudence. But he has installed himself as the head of 9/11 protocol, which is another thing entirely. Those who object on principle to the Foundation's agenda and methods are very much in the mainstream and it is the media's job to fully broadcast their position, instead of implicitly marginalizing them as cranks.

    Mayor Bloomberg and the Memorial Foundation should not be allowed to monopolize Ground Zero. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to stand up to the pending power grab and make the Memorial and Museum the greatest possible tribute to those who were murdered and to the world we lost on 9/11. The only way to do that is by examining the issues, not rubber-stamping a flawed agreement.

    • Well said. It is well past time for the media to ask some questions at Ground Zero; how did we get here? Who is responsible? Why were decisions made? Why is no pursuing this?

  2. “How did we get here?” Great question. Dishonesty and BS. Pataki pretended he knew what he was doing, so he chose Libeskind, a pretend architect yes-man who also claimed he knew what he was doing. Neither had any idea and its all been downhill since then.

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