Volume 17 • Issue 33 • Jan. 7 - 13, 2005

The latest rendering of the World Trade Center memorial plaza shows it lit up at night.

Memorial group’s first meeting

By Josh Rogers

The C.E.O.-studded and celebrity-sprinkled group picked to raise money to build the World Trade Center memorial and cultural center met behind closed doors Wednesday and began organizing to raise about $500 million.

The 33-member board also includes seven relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attack and they will play an important role in the fundraising effort, said Monica Iken, whose husband Michael Patrick Iken died in Tower 2. “We’re going to put a family face to say why it’s important to build this beautiful memorial,” said Iken, a member of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation’s board.

John Whitehead, chairperson of the new foundation as well as the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., said he thought he would have a foundation president named by the time of the next meeting in April.

He, many of the board members, two of the memorial’s architects, Michael Arad and Max Bond, and Daniel Libeskind, the W.T.C. site plan architect, spoke briefly with reporters after the meeting.

Arad, who originated the memorial idea of two sunken reflecting pools at the footprints of the Twin Towers, said the latest adjustment to the design — lighting the oak-filled street-level area — will add another look to the memorial plaza, whose leaves will change color with the seasons.

“The space is going to look very different during the day than at night,” Arad told Downtown Express. “At night from above, you’ll see light coming from the wall of water.”

A few hours earlier, Gov. George Pataki, in his “State of the State” address in Albany, said: “We will light the memorial at night so that visitors will be greeted by a welcoming glow throughout the memorial plaza.”

Pataki also called for legislation to help the fundraising effort by adding W.T.C. memorial check-off boxes to federal and New York State income tax returns, saying he had the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Sen. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno to change the state forms.

The foundation board members, including Robert De Niro, Barbara Walters, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and nine C.E.O.’s, now seem focused on raising the necessary funds and for now are putting aside disputes over how to list the thousands killed Sept. 11, 2001 or in the 1993 W.T.C. bombing.

Three foundation members who lost a loved one have said in recent weeks they want to change the name-listing plan — Iken (who wants to add pictures), Lee Ielpi (who wants people to be listed with co-workers) and Thomas Johnson (who wants to modify the shields to be placed near uniform officers who died).

Whitehead said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect a change in the proposed random listing of names. “It’s pretty well set,” he said. “The governor and mayor expressed their views on that… Others can express their views on it too. I don’t think there are any plans to change it.”

Kevin Rampe, a foundation member and L.M.D.C. president, made similar comments several weeks ago in a Downtown Express article. Family members said that in a subsequent private meeting, Rampe backpedaled a bit and said the name question would be open for discussion at a later time.

Charles Wolf, whose wife was killed in the towers, said he is confident the L.M.D.C. will consider changes. Wolf worked with other family members and groups for months on an alternate name proposal that they submitted to the development corporation last fall. The complex plan, whose details Wolf did not disclose, includes giving family members the option of being listed in groups based on where they were when they died.

He said he is not discouraged by the recent comments of Rampe and Whitehead.

“I do believe the L.M.D.C. will give this a fair hearing,” Wolf said in a telephone interview. “The time has not come for a fair hearing…. We are a long way from completing things — starting things — we’re not chiseling any stones yet.”

Because of the extensive underground infrastructure work needed to be done in preparation for building the memorial, construction is expected to begin in 2006 and be finished by Sept. 11, 2009.

Iken said she does want her husband’s name to be around the south tower footprint and she wants to be able to see his face at the memorial. She said it doesn’t matter either way if his name is listed with his co-workers at Eurobrokers.

“He didn’t die for his job,” she said. “It didn’t define him — his family defined him. For me the most important thing is the face.”

A visual reminder is important to her, she said, because she never recovered any of her husband’s remains or the personal items he took to work. For this reason she feels sympathy to the people in southeast Asia whose loved ones were lost at sea or buried in mass graves after the tsunamis. “I feel for the [tsunami] families,” she said. “They’re not going to get any remains.”


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