An agreement that will allow completion of New York’s Sept. 11 museum without spending additional public funds was reached hours before today’s 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attack, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The accord ensures that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will restart construction “very soon and will not stop until the museum is completed,” Bloomberg said late yesterday in a statement. The deal protects taxpayers from bearing additional costs, Cuomo said in a statement.
The agreement reduces the influence of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation, led by Bloomberg. Decisions on policy and events will be shared by the foundation board with a task force, a working group and an advisory committee. The members will be representatives of the Port Authority, the governors of New York and New Jersey, the memorial board and the mayor.
“We have made extraordinary progress at Ground Zero and today’s agreement is yet another milestone in our work to finally complete the site as a place where people from around the world can come to work, visit and remember,” Cuomo said.
Bloomberg and Cuomo have clashed over costs for finishing the project. With the agreement, the Port Authority estimates its exposure for delays and overtime has been reduced to $150 million from about $300 million, according to the memorandum of understanding.
The accord calls for major events such as today’s anniversary to be governed by a “working group” with representatives appointed by the governors, the Port Authority and the city, which will present plans to the board. Unresolved disputes will go to another panel, an advisory board, likewise appointed.
The memorial foundation will disclose its finances to the Port Authority and provide a security deposit equal to six months of estimated utility expenses, according to the agreement. The foundation pledges to find enough money for ongoing operations, which the mayor has estimated could run as high as $50 million a year. The parties agreed to work together to obtain an annual federal operating subsidy.
“The delays were understandably frustrating for many, particularly the families, friends and loved ones of all the 9/11 victims,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a statement.
A better agreement would be to hand over responsibility for the site to the National Park Service, said Sally Regenhard, a member of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, a group of families that has opposed some policies regarding the museum and memorial in Lower Manhattan.
“The complete lack of professional management at the 9/11MM has resulted in Ground Zero losing its entire historical integrity, becoming an 8-acre recreational area for fun and amusement,” Regenhard said by e-mail, referring to the museum and memorial.
Regenhard’s son, Christian, was a probationary firefighter with the New York City Fire Department who perished in the collapse of the Twin Towers.
“It does not address all of the fiscal questions that have plagued Ground Zero and the simplest solution is to give the responsibility to the National Park Service to operate it,” Regenhard said of the agreement. “If the National Park Service takes it over, we’ll get fiscal responsibility. Here, we have not seen fiscal responsibility.”
The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.