New Plan Unveiled for W.T.C. Memorial

THE NEW YORK TIMES • click for original

June 20, 2006


The names of the dead would be raised to plaza level from the pools below, as many relatives have demanded. But roaring waterfalls would still cascade into those pools, at the bottom of two enormous voids marking the place where the twin towers stood.

The reconceived World Trade Center memorial and museum, unveiled today after weeks of anxious anticipation, attempts to solve security problems, placate disaffected family members and, most of all, bring the project close to the $500 million budget cap set last month by Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The new $510 million plan, one of several developed by the construction executive Frank J. Sciame at the request of the governor and mayor, would fundamentally alter a visitor's experience while keeping signature features of the original design, by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, which was chosen in 2004 after a juried, worldwide competition.

Mr. Sciame presented five options last Thursday to the governor and the mayor.

The option they chose, Mr. Pataki said today, preserves the voids, the waterfalls, the pools, the names around the pools and the underground passage to the museum. "To me, these were all very important elements of the Michael Arad design," the governor said.

But Mr. Arad said the elimination of almost all the underground galleries that were to have wrapped around the pools was among the more "painful cuts" he was being asked to make and a significant departure from his original concept.

"This change is the result of a difficult process that addressed the costs of this important endeavor," Mr. Arad said in a statement. "While I am disappointed by this change, I recognize the imperative to move forward and begin construction of the memorial as soon as possible.

"I pledge to continue working to build a dignified memorial that remains true to the original objective - creating a place where we can all find the space to gather, reflect and share in the memory of those lost."

Mr. Sciame's recommendations can be found at

"Both the governor and I are very pleased with what's come out of this," Mayor Bloomberg said today, adding, "The changes are not perfect but they will make this affordable."

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the memorial planning, will accept public comments for a week. Its board of directors is expected to adopt a final design by the end of June. Foundation work could then begin in July, with an opening date set for Sept. 11, 2009.

On the plaza, visitors would find the names of all 2,979 victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Feb. 26, 1993, inscribed around the two voids. They would not have to pass through a security screening area, as they would have when the names were to be arrayed on parapets in eight memorial galleries around the two pools.

But neither would visitors find the isolation from the bustle of city life that the galleries would have afforded. Instead, Mr. Sciame said, the sound of the waterfalls themselves - about 700 feet long around each void - would serve as a buffer.

Six galleries would be eliminated, as would the ramps leading to them from the plaza. So would a museum entrance pavilion on West Street. Instead, the memorial and museum would be combined underground in a complex reached through a single visitors' orientation center on Greenwich Street.

After going through security in this building, visitors would make their way underground through a space called memorial hall. From here, they could walk along the two remaining galleries at pool level.

They would then descend to a large hall 70 feet below the street, close to bedrock, where they could see the truncated remains of the twin towers' perimeter columns, a 50- to 100-foot section of the slurry wall that formed the trade center foundation and large artifacts like the last column that was standing after the recovery operation ended.

The museum would shrink to about 120,000 square feet from 150,000 square feet. But it would not move to the Freedom Tower, as Mayor Bloomberg suggested in May. That turned out to be impractical, time consuming and too expensive, Mr. Sciame said.

Governor Pataki said Mr. Sciame and his advisers had "talked to virtually everyone they could about these ideas," including victim's relatives and the memorial jurors.

As a result of the changes, Mr. Sciame said, the budget for the memorial and memorial museum - not counting the $80 million visitors' center, for which the governor has already committed financing - would be about $510 million. That would be a savings of about $162 million from the most reliable previous estimate.

Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff said the bulk of the savings, $73 million, came from eliminating six of the eight underground galleries.

Mr. Sciame said that in working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he had pared the cost of infrastructure at the memorial site - cooling plant, underground roadways, utilities and the like - to $178 million from $301 million.

That would bring the entire price tag for developing the memorial quadrant, which was estimated at nearly $1 billion in May, closer to $700 million. Mr. Sciame said further savings would be possible if the Port Authority were to assume responsibility for building the memorial, the museum and the visitors' center.

Both the authority's chairman, Anthony R. Coscia, and its executive director, Kenneth J. Ringler Jr., acknowledged that their agency could play that role. Before making such a commitment, however, they said they wanted to be sure there was a solid consensus on the final design and a realistic financing plan in place.

To date, the development corporation has committed $250 million to the project. The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, which will own, construct and maintain the memorial and museum, has raised $130 million privately.

Left unsettled for now is the question of how the names will be arranged. In 2004, the governor and the mayor came out in favor of a random array, with insignias of service next to the names of uniformed emergency workers.

Many victims' relatives strongly opposed this approach. Counterproposals have included a separate listing for firefighters or groupings by workplace or affiliation: Aon, Cantor Fitzgerald, Marsh & McLennan and so on.

"It's something that is important to the families," Mr. Sciame said. "It does not have a budget impact but it's something that I'd like to be able to address."

He said his goal was to eliminate as much controversy as possible around the already beleaguered project. "If we could get enthusiastic support for a memorial at ground zero," Mr. Sciame said, "I think it will be huge for the memorial, for the idea of rebuilding."

(Sewell Chan contributed reporting for this article.)