[b][u]Port moves toward permanent memorial opening in 2011
By Julie Shapiro
Downtown Express file photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio
The shape of the World Trade Center memorial’s north pole is already visible.
The Port Authority will get the 9/11 memorial open by the 10-year anniversary and keep it open to the public afterward, executive director Chris Ward said last week.
Ward made the commitment at an Assembly hearing in Lower Manhattan, after Speaker Sheldon Silver called the opening of the memorial “more of a sound bite than a reality.”
“With no disrespect, you are wrong,” Ward replied.
Ward already said last year that much of the memorial — including the reflecting pools in the tower footprints, the parapets inscribed with the victims’ names and some of the trees — would open for the 10-year anniversary. But he had said the memorial would likely close to the public shortly thereafter while construction continued on and around it for several years.
Ward was more optimistic last week when he said the Port would find a way to keep the memorial “substantially open” after the 10-year anniversary.
“The memorial will be open in a way that accommodates the public,” Ward said. “While it is open, there will be construction.”
The pavilion leading to the underground museum will likely still be under construction after the 10-year anniversary, along with a vent structure on the plaza. All around the memorial, office towers will be rising, and the Port Authority will be building the PATH station as well.
When a reporter asked Ward what he meant by the memorial being “substantially open,” Ward closed his eyes and tilted his head back, knocking it lightly against the wall behind him. He would not say if the memorial would be open daily, if all of it would be open, or if visitors would be able to access it freely, without appointments. He would only say there would be “some form of public access.”
After hearing some of these caveats earlier, during the Assembly hearing, Silver pointed out that he had only been partially wrong about the memorial’s opening being symbolic, since it would not be fully open. Ward did not dispute the point.
Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, is glad Ward is making the memorial a priority.
“It’s incredibly encouraging,” Daniels said in a phone interview. “The notion of the memorial having a big commemorative ceremony on the anniversary is incredibly important, but equally important is that the rest of the world is going to get to visit the site afterward.”
Like Ward, Daniels did not give details on how much of the memorial would be open how often, saying it depended on the construction schedule.
“What we hope for is that it’s something that is free and open and as accessible as it possibly can be,” Daniels said. “Open access is the goal.”
Neither Ward nor Daniels would say how much extra it would cost to have people on the 16-acre site in the midst of construction.
The Port Authority is already paying at least an extra $75 million to get the memorial open for the 10-year anniversary. That’s how much it will cost to build the roof of the PATH hub’s mezzanine before building the rest of it, which in turn will enable the Port to construct the floor of the memorial years earlier than previously planned.