Volume 18 • Issue 31 | December 16 - 22, 2005

Rendering of the World Trade Center memorial’s waterfall.

Memorial’s falls will close every winter

By Ronda Kaysen

Waterfalls cascading nearly 30 feet to reflecting pools below—a hallmark of the World Trade Center memorial—will be shut off several months of the year because of weather and cost, the redevelopment officials said last week.

Last January the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation constructed a mock memorial in Ontario, Canada to test the feasibility of the design. After the nine-month study, redevelopment officials determined that the two cascading waterfalls — which will extend nearly 200 feet along each side of two square voids, a total length of nearly 1,600 feet — would not be feasible in a northeastern winter climate, said Anne Papageorge, the memorial design director for the L.M.D.C.

“The fountain will not run in the winter months,” she said at a Community Board 1 World Trade Center Committee meeting on Dec. 7. “The visitor experience will not be a pleasant one. You will not only be cold, but wet. The wind will blow water into the galleries.” The cost of maintaining the waterfalls in winter would be “extremely expensive by factors of four or five,” she added.

Already the price tag for the memorial, Reflecting Absence, is estimated to be $330 million, and the underground memorial museum, is targeted at $160 million.

Although the waterfalls will be shut off in winter months, the reflecting pools over the Twin Tower’s footprints below will run year round, Papageorge said.

Aspects of the memorial, designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, have been altered since it was selected in 2004. The number of ramps descending into the lower level was reduced from four to two, and access to the bedrock level was expanded.

But limiting the months the waterfalls will operate is the first change that alters Arad’s core concept.

Visitors will enter the Memorial Plaza, a grove of trees at street level that is punctured by two voids with running waterfalls. Visitors can either circle the voids or descend a ramp to the Memorial Hall level, where the names of the victims of 9/11 and the 1993 W.T.C. bombing circle reflecting pools, with the waterfalls as a backdrop.

“The names will be set on a low wall where a curtain of water falling from above will be the only element separating visitors from the pool,” describes the L.M.D.C. Web site. “Confronted by the names of those lost and by the vastness of the space in front of them, visitors will comprehend the scale of devastation that occurred.”

With the waterfalls shut several months of the year, the mood of the subterranean space will likely be altered.

“It’s unbelievable that a key component of the memorial will not work for three months of the year,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of the C.B. 1 W.T.C. committee. “It will definitely affect the impact.”

Arad declined to comment and referred all questions to the development corporation. John Gallagher, the corporation’s spokesperson, said the decision is not final.

However, the WTC Memorial Foundation will ultimately own the memorial, making operational decisions, and plans to shut it in the winter. “It is expected the fountains will be turned off during the winter because of the cold,” said Lynn Rasic, a foundation spokesperson, last Friday.

By last Friday afternoon, none of the family members on the Memorial Foundation Board Downtown Express spoke with were aware of the news. The development was first reported on www.DowntownExpress.com Dec. 9.

“I’m totally disappointed,” said Lee Ielpi, whose son died in the W.T.C. attacks, upon learning of the change. “It’s a shame that people who come here in the winter months will not be able to see it.”

Monica Iken, whose husband was killed in the W.T.C., and Debra Burlingame, whose brother piloted the plane that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, also said they did not know of the design change. Iken called the L.M.D.C. later on Friday and was told the waterfall would shut on some days depending on the weather.



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