Volume 18 • Issue 52 | May 12 - 18, 2006

Editorial

Scaling back the memorial and improving the plan

Cutting the skyrocketing costs of the World Trade Center memorial can also solve many other problems in the current redevelopment plan. The changes will meet several demands of 9/11 family leaders who have criticized the design, restore the cultural center that has been virtually cut out of the site and will make the government subsidies needed to build the Freedom Tower less onerous.

How?

Take the memorial museum out of the underground area and put it in the hard-to-rent Freedom Tower; save space for non-9/11-related cultural space in the tower; and consider taking the expensive water element out of the design.

The WTC Memorial Foundation’s recent estimate that costs have soared to almost $1 billion, its lackluster fundraising efforts, and its childish decision to suspend its work make it clear the plan needs to be scaled back.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg told us last December that the memorial should be built even if the cost reached $2 billion. He has since sharply reconsidered that position and is now leading the effort to set a reasonable $500 million limit. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the foundation need to reconcile their cost estimates, but the true number could in fact be closer to $2 billion if officials ever decided to calculate the hidden costs of making room for the memorial, and to estimate the almost inevitable cost overruns.

Moving the museum to the Freedom Tower will put it above ground and preserve more of the site’s bedrock area — satisfying two demands of some 9/11 relatives. It would also make unnecessary an unacceptable idea the foundation is presently considering — charging admission to see part of the memorial because access to it will be blocked by the current, costlier museum location.

Content demands of some family members drove two cultural institutions off the site and led to the memorial’s expansion. The art groups were to go in the Snohetta building, now being reconfigured to accommodate bathrooms and a visitors center. Scaling back the building drastically to its new functions lowers costs and creates more room at the plaza level for W.T.C. artifacts such as the remnants of the Twin Towers’ facade.

 A building named for freedom is an ideal place to put both a museum honoring people who died for living freely, and a center for groups expressing artistic freedom. Let’s all recognize that freedom makes Gov. George Pataki’s “absolute guarantee” not to ever offend anyone with art impossible.

In order to get construction started on the tower that should have been delayed, Pataki pledged to find 1 million square feet of government agencies to lease half the building. The museum and art space should be deducted from this pledge and it will mean more Downtown government offices will be able to stay in older, less expensive, privately owned buildings.

So what would be left of the memorial?

In the middle of a dense office district there will be W.T.C. artifacts and a forest of oak trees surrounding two large voids at the Twin Tower footprints, signifying the tremendous loss of life. Visitors will be moved seeing the names, the slurry wall and the site’s bedrock. It is an achievable result for fundraisers, affordable to taxpayers and will be priceless to many.


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