WTC Sphere set to move to Liberty Park

The battered Fritz Koenig-designed sphere that famously survived the collapse of the World Trade Center, has spent the past 14 years exiled to a grove of trees in The Battery, but it may soon find a place in Liberty Park, overlooking the 9/11 memorial plaza — where many locals say the iconic sculpture really belongs.

BY YANNIC RACK

After 15 years in exile, the World Trade Center Sphere might be homebound at last — sort of.

Officials at the Port Authority, which owns both the iconic sculpture and the WTC site, said this week that they were working to relocate the battered sphere that survived 9/11 to the new elevated park on Liberty St. that opened to the public on Wednesday.

“My own personal view is that the Sphere belongs here, not in Battery Park and certainly not in an airport hangar,” said Pat Foye, the agency’s executive director, at the park’s official opening on June 29. “We’re working with the families to bring it to this site. I think it will be a fitting place.”

The Fritz Koenig-designed sculpture, a 45,000-pound brass orb, formed the centerpiece of the old WTC plaza but has been tucked away in The Battery since 2002, even though the conservancy managing the park would like to see it gone.

Efforts to relocate it to the site of the 9/11 memorial — most notably by Michael Burke, whose firefighter brother died in the Twin Tower’s collapse — have so far been thwarted by resistance from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which argues it doesn’t fit in with the plaza’s sparse design.

Foye noted that the St. Nicholas National Shrine, the Greek Orthodox church being built at the park’s eastern end, also supports the plan, and his announcement was supported by other top brass at the agency.

“I agree with Pat, and the board will be considering this within the next several months,” said Port Authority chairman John Degnan. “It’ll be here.”

In the meantime, the Port Authority has already moved another sculpture to Liberty Park, where the horse soldier statue “De Oppresso Liber,” commemorating the Army Special Forces’ initial horseback forays into Afghanistan, now looks out over the memorial.

Not everyone is happy about the prospect of putting the Sphere there as well, however, and some local residents think it would ruin the purpose of the green space altogether.

“I don’t think it belongs here. I think it belongs downstairs in the memorial,” said Tammy Meltzer, who lives in Battery Park City and worked at the World Trade Center before the attack. “This is a park restored for the community, and it should be a park — not another memorial,” she said. “This is an amazing amenity, and it’s perfect the way it is.”

Joe Daniels, the president of the memorial and museum, announced recently that he is stepping down by the end of the year, and Meltzer said the news gave her hope that the door wasn’t entirely closed on further discussions about the Sphere’s future.

Burke, who started a petition to move the sculpture to the memorial plaza, has somewhat come around to the idea of relocating it to the park — although if he had his choice, he would still put the orb back where it once stood, between the memorial pools now filling the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers.

“If it was one or the other, I guess it would have to be the memorial,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen. So I would like to work with the powers that be, to make sure it is done as well as it can be done.”

Burke said he was looking forward to discussing the relocation with the Port Authority, but also sympathized with residents like Meltzer who want the park preserved as a neutral space for locals.

“It strikes me as a place where it’s going to be a problem. Downtowners want it to be their park and not another tourist attraction,” he said. “But if it’s not going to be on the site — and it doesn’t look like it — this is better than any other option. Between a rock and a hard place, you gotta do the best you can.”

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7 Responses to WTC Sphere set to move to Liberty Park

  1. The Sphere should be placed where it should have been put from the very beginning; between the two pool “footprints” of the twin towers on the grounds of the memorial. The Sphere was the central focal point of the WTC plaza. How many of us who worked down there sat around the Sphere and the fountain eating lunch each summer day?

    That is why I find the memorial so cold. It gives no true reminder of how wonderful that plaza was. I can’t believe there was even any question about placing the Sphere where it had stood pre-9/11.

    A 9/11 survivor

  2. Rudolf Hohenfeld

    The Sphere was the centerpiece of the WTC as well as the WTC Plaza. The Survivor Tree was rescued from the ashes of the WTC, nursed and restored to health. It was placed in a prominant place near the South pool and is a great gathering place for the masses. The Sphere as it is, deserves the same respect and treatment given the Survivor Tree and again placed In a central location as suggested,between the fountains. It is, after all, a “survivor.”

  3. Maryanne P. Braverman

    I am happy with the Sphere at the Battery. I was at work in #2 WTC on 9/11, helped evacuate co-workers and have lived in this neighborhood for 34 years. I have a stake here. The Battery accepted the Sphere early on and allowed us to have a place for remembering long before the Memorial site was developed. I know it was to be temporary, but having it there allows people to see it who might not otherwise go to the Memorial and Museum. How crowded with hardscape should Liberty Park be?

    • Observe how park goers in Battery Park interact w/ the Sphere. Of the thousands of people who pass through the park every day, tremendously few even notice the Sphere. Almost all are shuttling between Castle Clinton and the tour boat lines, or hovering around Pier A.

      Within Battery Park, the Sphere essentially is an anonymous entity. To the ever-diminishing counts of people who had pre-9/11 familiarity with it, it sits largely unknown — with it’s context lost.

      To me, it seems that Battery Park was an adequate place to store the Sphere, during post-9/11 cleanup and construction. Upon further reflection, it would have been more appropriate to temp store in Zucitti Park, or perhaps the WFC North Cove. I say this because the WTC site seems to have been intentionally made antiseptic of any genuine reflection of the World Trade Center. The intense opposition to restoring the Sphere to a place between the fountains seems to (sadly) bear this out. As such, a home in the new Liberty Park seems to be as close to home as the Sphere can hope to get.

  4. As a BPC resident and former 9/11 refugee, I find this insensitive and cold-hearted. Is it not enough that I have to push through hoards of tourists to get to the subway every morning? Is it not enough that the image of the towers falling replays in my head every time I walk past the reflecting pools? Is it not enough that I have to watch laughing children wearing commemorative 9/11 hoodies walking around my neighborhood? I’m tired of these upsetting reminders of that day being shoved down my throat. I don’t need these offensive reminders to remember what happened. I can’t wait for the day that I can walk out of my building and not be instantly reminded of what my family went through. But, sadly, it doesn’t look like that day will ever come.

    • Your feelings are understandable, but of course, such a day will never come. The WTC site (I’ll never refer to it as “Ground Zero”)has been forever branded a must-see curiosity, tourist attraction. And this rebranding is all completely intentional (over-involvement of survivor families, Gov Pataki over-ruling rebuild plans strongly favored by the public).

      As for those of us who live/work here — Best to move to another neighborhood, if you wish to escape the ongoing reminders of 9/11. Sadly, it is forever a business / selfie opportunity, for too many (starting with the Museum).

  5. I believe the sphere is a memorial and an icon of resilience.
    it should be located in a place where people commonly walk through.

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