NEW YORK—The 9/11 Memorial will open for the 10th anniversary ceremonies this September. Memorial plaza will be reserved completely for victim’s families on Sept. 11 and will be officially open to the public on Sept. 12, according to Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, who testified on Thursday in front of the City Council Committee on the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan.
The two pools and waterfalls sitting at the footprints of the twin towers will be operational by the end of July. The museum’s glass facade between the two pools is almost entirely finished. However, the museum is not expected to open until 2012.
“It’s a rare sight in this city to see a building at the end of the street, and this one has such a unique and elegant character. I think it really adds to the character of the downtown community,” Daniels said of the museum.
As of Thursday, 146 oak trees had already been planted at the site. A total of 416 trees will be at the site when the memorial is completed. At the foot of the rising One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, the trees and plazas of the memorial can already be seen from West Street and various corridors around the site.
The memorial was part of the largest design competition in history. “Reflecting Absence” by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, was selected as the winning design from 5,201 submissions. Arad’s vision won over the panel with its stress on simplicity and continuity. The design includes a private chamber at the base of the void for the victims’ families where a stone vessel with unidentified remains lies directly beneath an opening to the sky above.
With 86 days left until the opening of the memorial, much has been done to accommodate the families of the victims as well as the downtown community. Due to limited capacity and high demand, visitors to the memorial will have to reserve free passes online at 911memorial.org, starting July 11.
A special phone line has been dedicated for reservations from victims’ families. Arrangements for first responders as well as the downtown community are also in place.
“I can’t tell you how wonderfully comforting it is for me, a resident and a family member, to see Tower One going up,” said Charles Wolf, a local resident who lost his wife in the 9/11 attacks.
“Every day when I see it as I walk around the neighborhood, I feel like more and more healing is going on,” said Wolf, who has been instrumental in affecting change for the victim compensation fund, as well as many past and present initiatives and projects related to the memorial.
Bronze nameplates are currently being installed for the 2,982 victims who died during terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and Feb. 26, 1993. Visitors can get locations for each specific victim’s nameplate at the online memorial guide: names.911memorial.org.
Tower One of the World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the country upon completion. It is steadily rising north of the memorial plaza.
Tickets or Suggested Donation
While the memorial will be free, the museum that opens one year after that is expected to cost $20 or $25, said Daniels, with victims’ families getting in free.
That price will put it in line with other major cultural institutions in the city like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Empire State Building, which charge around $20.
They are still considering whether the charge for the museum would be a suggested donation or straight ticket price, he said.
“We’re currently also looking at all our potential revenue sources. We’ll be getting help from the federal government on an ongoing basis. We will continue with our annual fundraising. So out of all those various buckets it will help determine what level of pricing we would use and whether we can use a suggested donation or a straight ticket charge,” said Daniels. “But one way or the other the museum is going to need to generate revenue to maintain the memorial.”
Pressed about the price, Daniels admitted that they haven’t done a feasibility study regarding the price yet.
Local Residents’ Concern
Tour buses and traffic are a major concern for the local residents.
“We remain concerned about the expected influx of tour buses and whether our community is prepared to handle an additional 5 million annual visitors,” said Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1. The memorial site lies at the epicenter of her district.
Menin said that since city taxpayers have already shouldered $3.2 billion for the PATH Station at the World Trade Center, authorities should encourage the public to use public transportation.
According to Daniels, a plan is in place with the MTA to promote the use of public transportation with advertisements on 8 million MetroCards. Talks are also in progress with the city, the Department of Transportation, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and NYC & Company. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum has eight official transportation partners, who have made a commitment to bring tourists to the site using ferries, or buses that do not park in the downtown area.
“Many of these partners are also creating itineraries that will include taking advantage of other Lower Manhattan sites and attractions, encouraging those visitors to contribute as much as possible to the economic vitality of this area,” he added.
Adequate security, lack of public restrooms in the area and an influx of illegal street vendors are among other concerns outlined by Menin. In addition, no endowment is in place to sustain operations and maintenance of the site and museum in the years to come.