Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 163

The problems with completing the WTC Museum continue. The earliest that the museum will be open is mid 2013, and that's growing increasingly unlikely considering that the money issues between the Memorial Foundation and the Port Authority remain unresolved. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at issue, and each side blames the other for delays and costs that should inure to the other.

Meanwhile, a group of 9/11 families has again raised the suggestion that the National Park Service should take over the memorial and museum. I can't think of a better suggestion, though it would have to address shifting the fundraising proceeds to the Park Service.
The Parks Service already runs a number of memorials, including the one in Shanksville, Penn., where hijacked Flight 93 crashed. The group, 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims, has been harshly critical of the private non profit which runs the memorial now.

The group points out that instead of collecting $300 million owed by the memorial/museum, the Port Authority agreed to take just $50 million over a number of years. "What happened to the remaining $250 million? Why are taxpayers being expected to pick up the tab for the cost overruns by a private foundation," the group asks.

The group is also critical of bills in Congress that would contribute $20 million annually to the museum "with no strings attached."
The NPS has been down this road before. They know how to manage national parks and protect the assets they've been given on a limited budget.

There has been serious mismanagement with the memorial and museum, and the Port Authority has seen costs skyrocket with every phase of construction, including for its portion of the memorial and museum (as well as the PATH transit hub, the costs of which have more than doubled and delays have pushed completion well beyond what was originally anticipated).

The Port Authority is responsible for much of the delays and cost overruns, but the memorial foundation isn't blameless either. They have done a miserable job of containing costs and the administrative costs aren't in line with the job they're doing and the functions involved.

Putting the memorial and museum in the hands of the National Park Service would eliminate much of the costs and overhead, and qualified people at the National Park Service would make sure that the site is treated with the respect and solemnity it deserves. The money raised by the foundation would be able to serve as an endowment for preservation, maintenance, and operations, and instead of charging access fees to the museum, it could impose a fee on tour operators for bus access to the site - paying for mitigation and bus security as well as funding the museum's operating budget. That makes far more sense than imposing access/entry fees to cover the cost of going and learning about the 9/11 attacks, what precipitated the attacks, and the aftermath. The museum is a learning center - and that access should be unfettered by entrance fees.

President Obama will be in Lower Manhattan on Thursday to attend a pre-topping out event at 1WTC. 4WTC will be topping out in July, but without the same kind of fanfare. I'm not quite in agreement with the author of this piece that 4WTC blends into the skyline more than 1WTC; both use reflective glass as part of the design, but 1WTC is unmistakable from afar because of its size and heft. 4WTC doesn't reach the same heights, and its orientation for the upper floors means that it has a reduced presence. However, both are imposing structures from street level (and from my window at the office). (HT: Curbed)


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