Monday, June 18, 2012

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 165

There's been little movement on the resumption of construction of the National 9/11 Museum, despite a visit from President Obama last week and the principal politicians and bureaucrats involved in the museum and memorial process all present at the same time.

New York and New Jersey Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie have called on the National Park Service to get involved in the memorial and museum endeavor, but both Governors ignore that they hold key roles in the redevelopment and rebuilding process. They're the ones to whom the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey answers. If the governors had wanted to get the process restarted and completed, they could have forced the Port Authority to cut a deal with the memorial and museum foundation.

Instead, we're seeing nothing but delaying tactics from the Port Authority and shifting and denying blame for the delays.

And the New York Post is reporting that Governor Cuomo appears to have it in for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who holds a key position in the memorial foundation - a personal spat is blocking redevelopment:
Gov. Cuomo is so angry about his dad being dissed by Mayor Bloomberg, he’s holding funding for the 9/11 Museum hostage until a new mayor is elected, sources told The Post.

Officials close to Cuomo said it all became personal because of how his father — former Gov. Mario Cuomo — was treated by the mayor’s people at Ground Zero ceremonies last Sept. 11.

The elder Cuomo was first hassled about 6:45 a.m. that Sunday as he tried to clear security and get into the perimeter of the World Trade Center site.

A short time later, he was again blocked — that time as he tried to access the 9/11 memorial. That confrontation was defused only when a PA official intervened,
One of the governor’s top aides, Joe Percoco, was also hassled by city staffers at the event, even though he was in the governor’s entourage.

Events that day only added insult to injury for the governor.

He was already enraged over the way he felt City Hall tried to minimize his role in planning the ceremonies. He was also angry at being assigned a reading from Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech, because it had been read at a previous 9/11 event by former Gov. George Pataki.

“Mario didn’t want to cause a scene [on 9/11] so he was quiet about it, but it was certainly raised internally. Everybody has heard about it,” a source involved in the city-state museum talks told The Post.

A source close to the mayor said Bloomberg’s feeling about the governor’s reaction is that “on the chart of crazy, it’s off the charts.”
I'm not quite sure how much we can read into this, but personal politics has driven the redevelopment of the World Trade Center off the rails from the outset. It was Gov. Pataki's decision to pick Daniel Libeskind's master plan despite better designs offered up by the likes of Sir Norman Foster (who had experience doing major projects of the size and scope).

That led, in turn, to all kinds of problems with Libeskind's skyscraper designs that led to choosing other architects to design and build the towers that are rising around the site. Libeskind may have his name on the master plan, but his name isn't associated with any of the tower designs. All that added up to years of extra delays and higher rebuilding costs.

And the personal politics continues - with personality conflicts likely playing a role in bringing construction of the museum to a standstill.

I've argued for some time now that the NPS should have been involved from the get-go and that they are uniquely qualified to tell the story of 9/11, the 1993 WTC bombing, and the history of the site. The memorial foundation may have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for that purpose, but they're still short on how to fund ongoing operations once the museum is open. That's a huge concern going forward because the museum is not only meant to teach current generations about what happened at the World Trade Center, but to inform future generations.

It should not be subject to entry fees to learn about this critical era of American and world history.

Governor Cuomo's office calls the NY Post story 100% absolutely false. However, the issue of control over the site is the real reason work has come to a standstill:
Bloomberg and the governors disagree on who should foot the costs—Bloomberg wants the Port Authority to continue paying, but the governors reportedly "contend the PA is willing to pay its share but won’t write a blank check that could amount to hundreds of millions down the road. The governors also insist that the PA maintain day-to-day control over the entire WTC site. The 9/11 Museum is operated by a private foundation chaired by the mayor." One Port Authority official told the Post, "This whole fight is Cuomo and Bloomberg. And it’s about which one of them is going to control the legacy of 9/11."
There's no reason that the Port Authority should maintain day-to-day control; they've botched nearly every aspect of rebuilding - from the planning and design to the containment of costs and missed deadlines at every opportunity. Much of the work above ground has proceeded despite the efforts of the Port Authority - not because of the agency.

So, while Cuomo and Christie are calling on the National Park Service to get involved, they aren't pushing the Port Authority to do what is within its power to do - namely finish the rebuilding process in a timely and cost-effective manner. That's on them - not the memorial foundation or anyone else.

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