Volume 17 • Issue 27 | Dec. 03 - Dec. 09, 2004

W.T.C. name debate resurfaces

Some of the new directors of the foundation: At left, Michael Eisner and Kenneth Chenault, C.E.O.’s of Disney and American Express, and at right, Lee Ielpi, whose son was a firefighter killed in the attack and Vartan Gregorian, who headed the W.T.C. memorial jury (with a goatee).

By Josh Rogers

Two fathers who lost sons on 9/11 and who were named to the just-created foundation to raise money for the World Trade Center memorial are looking to change the memorial design in different ways. If an internal foundation dispute surfaces at the board’s beginning, it would have the potential to complicate the group’s task of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the memorial and adjacent cultural center.

Both members of the foundation’s board, in separate interviews with Downtown Express immediately after being named to the organization Dec. 1, said they wanted to change the way the names of victims are listed. One, Thomas Johnson, wants to modify the proposed shield insignias near the uniformed officers killed on Sept. 11, 2001 so as not to create the impression that some lives lost were more valued than others. The other, Lee Ielpi, the father of a firefighter killed, is interested in giving family members the option of grouping names by firehouse, police precinct or office, and is adamant about keeping the shields the way they are.

“That’s a given. The shields will be there,” said Ielpi, a retired firefighter whose son Jonathan Lee Ielpi was killed. As for the idea of listing the names randomly around the memorial’s two reflecting pools, the father said: “There is room for change I think there’s some negotiations going on. People who came to work together and died together should be listed together.”

Some relatives of W.T.C. office workers have expressed interest in being listed with their loved one’s co-workers, but others have voiced concerns that separating firefighters out for example, might lead to “hierarchies.”

Johnson, whose son Scott Johnson was an investment analyst in the South Tower for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said he continues to have concerns about the shields.

“There has been some discussion about how to modify it,” he said before declining to go into specifics.

Johnson is the former chairperson and C.E.O. of GreenPoint Financial Corporation and a board member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which set up the memorial jury process that led to the selected design by Michael Arad and Peter Walker.

Kevin Rampe, L.M.D.C. president and also a new member of the foundation, dismissed the notion that the emotional name listing debate will be reopened.

“They’re negotiating with themselves if they’re negotiating,” Rampe told Downtown Express. “The mayor and governor have been very clear on that. I think we put that issue to bed a long time ago.”

Rampe, Johnson, Ielpi and the other 28 members of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation board will have their first meeting in January. The non-profit foundation will construct, own and maintain the memorial, its museum and the two adjacent cultural buildings planned.

The initial cost estimate for the memorial design is $350 million. Gov. George Pataki said last week that the memorial is the highest priority for the $800 million left in the L.M.D.C. budget followed by the cultural buildings. He, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the L.M.D.C. are planning to release a report in March identifying the remaining Downtown projects to get L.M.D.C. funds.

Pataki and Bloomberg announced the names of the foundation’s board across the street from the W.T.C. in the lobby of American Express, near the memorial to the firm’s 11 employees killed Sept. 11, 2001. The list is chock full of prominent names including Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada, Michael Eisner, C.E.O. of Walt Disney, Barbara Walters of ABC News, which is owned by Disney, Robert “Woody” Johnson, owner of the Jets, Jerry Speyer, chairperson and C.E.O. of Tishman Speyer Properties, and Richard Parsons, C.E.O. and chairperson of Time Warner.

Many of Downtown’s most noteworthy business leaders are also directors including Robert De Niro, who heads the Tribeca Film Institute in addition to starring in movies, Kenneth Chenault, chairperson and C.E.O. of American Express, David Rockefeller, who was instrumental in the construction of the W.T.C., John Zuccotti, co-chairperson of Brookfield Prpoerties Corporation, Tom Reyni, chairperson and C.E.O. of Bank of New York, and John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson who will serve as interim chairperson of the memorial foundation.

There will be seven family members of 9/11 victims: Debra Burlingame, Monica Iken, Anthoula Katsimatides, the L.M.D.C.’s assistant vice president of family relations, Tom Roger, Paula Berry, who served on the jury selecting the design, Ielpi and Thomas Johnson.

The leader of the memorial jury, Vartan Gregorian, will also be a director.

The design includes two sunken reflecting pools in the rectangular shape of the Twin Towers, keeping some of the bedrock where many of the victims remains fell exposed, and a tree-filled plaza at street level. The names will be visible to visitors as they descend down to the pools. The memorial will pay tribute to the thousands killed Sept. 11, 2001 and to the six who perished Feb. 26, 1993 when the World Trade Center was bombed. Arad and Walker will unveil details and refinements to their design before the end of the year.

There have been delays setting up the foundation, but Ielpi said he was confident he and his colleagues will be able to raise the money. “The country has not forgotten what happened,” he said.

All four living ex-presidents will serve as honorary members of the board. Pataki, Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be honorary trustees.

Pataki said remembering what happened is essential and the directors will see that the memorial and museum will “be able to tell that story not just to those of us here today but to those who will be coming decades and generations from now.”

The other board members are Sir John Bond, C.E.O. HSBC Holdings, Russell Carson, co-founding partner of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, Maurice Greenberg, Chairperson and C.E.O. of American International Group, Agnes Gundy, president emerita Museum of Modern Art, William B. Harrison Jr., chairperson and C.E.O. JP Morgan Chase & Co., Henry Kravis, founding partner Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Ira  Millstein, senior partner Weil, Gotshal & Manges L.L.P., Peter Peterson, chairperson and co-founder The Blackstone Group, E. John Rosenwald, vice chairperson Bear Stearns Companies, Inc., Anne M. Tatlock, chairperson and C.E.O. Fiduciary Trust Company International.


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