Volume 18 • Issue 19 | Sep. 30 - Oct 06, 2005

Pataki tosses Freedom Center from W.T.C.

By Ronda Kaysen

Governor George Pataki announced today that an international museum will not be housed at the World Trade Center site, saying, “Freedom should unify us. This center has not,” effectively dissolving the museum before it ever existed.

The International Freedom Center was created explicitly for the site and selected last year as part of a Snohetta-designed cultural center at the W.T.C. redevelopment. The cultural center was to occupy the same quadrant as the memorial.

In recent months some 9/11 victims’ families groups and some firefighter and police officer groups have raised concerns that the content of the cultural center will not adequately memorialize the victims of the Sept. 11th disaster.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the agency overseeing the redevelopment, asked the Freedom Center to release a detailed plan of its content, which it did on Sept. 23. According to the plans, the museum would feature exhibits portraying the global struggle for freedom and the history freedom, further riling the opposition.

In recent days, several political leaders came out against the center, including Senator Hillary Clinton.

In a statement on Wednesday, Clinton said, “The controversy surrounding the I.F.C. has impeded progress on the memorial and essential rebuilding efforts in Lower Manhattan.”

The governor’s decision is a step in the right direction for the family members who insist the area around the memorial must be restricted to commemorating the victims. “We need to make sure that 9/11 content and programming remains at the museum,” Monica Iken, founder and president of September’s Mission, said in a telephone interview. Iken’s husband, Michael, died in the disaster.

The Freedom Center has not been entirely without political support. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff have both expressed their dismay in the course of events at various times. “I am disappointed that we were not able to find a way to reconcile the freedoms we hold so dear with the sanctity of the site,” Bloomberg said in a statement Wednesday.

The timing of the governor’s announcement came as a surprise. The Freedom Center was slated to present its plan and hear community input at a Community Board 1 meeting on Wednesday night and at a New York New Visions Forum and Workshop on Thursday. The Freedom Center learned of the governor’s decision 15 minutes before his announcement.

Although the governor suggested that the L.M.D.C. work with the museum to look for an alternate site, in all likelihood the Freedom Center will dissolve as an organization.

“We do not believe there is a viable alternative place for the I.F.C. at the World Trade Center site,” Freedom Center chairman Tom Bernstein and president Richard Tofel said in a joint statement. “We consider our work, therefore, to have been brought to an end.”


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