Volume 22, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 31 - August 6
Street work could delay memorial opening, official warns
By Julie Shapiro
If the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site is going to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, two things are necessary: first, a completed memorial plaza, and second, a way to access it.
Work on the memorial itself has been moving forward rapidly since the beginning of the year, said Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
But the memorial plaza won’t be able to open unless the millions of expected visitors are able to access it through a rebuilt Greenwich St. running across the Trade Center site, and that is the piece that has Daniels concerned.
“What we can’t have is a scenario where the memorial is literally an island that is inaccessible by the parts around it,” Daniels said during a City Council hearing Monday. “The most important thing that we need…is pedestrian access on the 10th anniversary, which requires to some extent Greenwich St. to be accessible by pedestrians.”
Over the past year, Daniels and many others have been pushing for the memorial to open by 9/11/11, complete with waterfalls in the tower footprints and a listing of victims’ names on the parapets. During Monday’s hearing, Daniels returned several times to the necessity of having Greenwich St. open for the 10-year anniversary, a piece of the overall W.T.C. project that is out of his control.
Greenwich St. does not have to be entirely complete by the anniversary, but it has to be in good enough shape that people can walk on it, Daniels said.
The Port Authority, which owns the W.T.C. site and is responsible for rebuilding Greenwich St., said last October that the street would not be done until at least the middle of 2012. Silverstein Properties, the private developer at the site, is also concerned about the schedule for Greenwich St. and has said the Port’s estimate may be too optimistic.
“We have committed to getting the memorial open by the 10th anniversary and we are on schedule to meet that commitment,” Port spokesperson Steve Coleman said in an e-mail.
Daniels said it’s also important for the memorial to remain open and accessible after the anniversary.
“This cannot be a one-day or a temporary opening,” Daniels said.
The Port at one time had planned a short-term opening in 2011 while it completed the underground construction over the following two years, but last year the authority promised to keep the memorial plaza open to some unspecified extent after the 9/11/11 ceremony.
When City Councilmember Alan Gerson heard about Daniels’ concerns Monday, he asked Daniels to give him a schedule of what else the Port Authority has to do to get the memorial open on time, and when the work has to be done.
Daniels replied that he is also relying on the Port Authority to do steel installation connecting the memorial to surrounding projects. Steel installation on the northeast and southeast corners has to start this fall if the memorial is to remain on schedule, Daniels said.
Coleman did not respond to questions about the schedule of steel installation, but the Port previously redesigned the underground mezzanine of the PATH hub so that the northeast corner of the memorial could be built earlier.
Later in Monday’s hearing, Gerson pressed Daniels on an issue that has long been contentious: the absence of rank in the listing of the victims’ names.
Initially, the memorial was going to list the names randomly with fire or police insignias near uniformed officers, but many family members objected, particularly relatives of fallen first responders, who wanted them to be distinguished.
The ultimate compromise was that victims would be grouped by affiliation, whether that meant the corporation they worked for or the F.D.N.Y. company in which they served. But the memorial foundation decided not to include the first responders’ ranks. Daniels said many family members objected to the inclusion of rank because it would create a hierarchy among those who were killed.
Gerson objected to that line of thinking.
“I don’t believe including the rank an individual earned…in any way detracts from anyone else,” he said.
Sally Regenhard, whose son was a probationary firefighter killed on 9/11, also said at the hearing that rank should be included.
The foundation made the final decision to not include rank at the end of 2006, but since the issue surfaced recently, Daniels has been e-mailing family members to describe the configuration of the names and the justification for not including rank. In two e-mails to family members and his testimony Monday, Daniels cited several memorials that do not include ranks, such as the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and several national police and firefighter memorials.
“There is no right answer to the difficult question of how to do this,” Daniels wrote in one e-mail.
Michelle Breslauer, spokesperson for the memorial foundation, said Daniels received many responses from family members who are happy with the current names configuration.
While Daniels did not give Gerson the answer he wanted about the rankings, Gerson was happy to hear that Daniels has more confidence now than he did last year that the memorial would be finished in time for the 10-year anniversary.
“This is good news, and it’ll be even greater news when it actually happens,” Gerson said.