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.”