New York

Political Dysfunction Over the 9/11 Museum Continues!


As we all know, Tuesday marks the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks – more than a decade has passed since the day that will forever live in New York and America’s memories. Over time, the City has undergone a long and arduous process of moving on from the terrible events that occurred that day. Unfortunately, this recovery has been tainted with one of mankind’s worst illnesses: politics.

In a report released yesterday by the New York Times, just in time for the anniversary, our attention returns to the dispute over the seven-floors-below-ground 9/11 Museum that hit headlines a few years back. The problem here is pretty basic: who in the world is going to pay the nearly $1 billion tab? But this controversy has all the necessary ingredients for a classic political meltdown.

Here’s what’s wrong:

Mayor Bloomberg sits as Chairman of 9/11 Museum Committee; he is in charge of directing funds for the site and has already raised millions (he donated $15 million himself; the rest is from private donations, totaling around $450 million so far). And his term ends after 2013, which means the Mayor has set himself up with a deadline to get one of his administration’s largest projects done on time.

However, the Committee does not own the World Trade Center site – that responsibility lies in the hands of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. And who runs that? Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie… the feuding trifecta has been assembled.

As of now, the Bloomberg and Cuomo tents are at a standstill with each other: no one wants to pay up the remaining cost of the bill, leaving the project and exhibits stalled for production. The Bloomberg tent is saying that it’ll take another year for the Museum to be built as well as an additional few months to get the exhibits up and running. And all of this depends on how long it takes the Freedom Tower to be completed.

In 2006, the feud was temporarily fixed when the foundation agreed to pay $700 million, relying heavily on federal and state money. But the Port Authority was in charge of actually building the Museum and overseeing its maintenance; soon enough, by 2010, the overall projected costs raised and the Port Authority was left with a much bigger bill than it previously thought ($1.3 billion) and bailed from the compromise all together. Cuomo also argued that Bloomberg & Co. owed the state over $100 million. (Also, take into account that Christie has to sign off on all of this two. Another state, another enormous Advil).

Since then, all agreements between the two disputing sides have fallen apart but the families of victims on the Committee are hoping that the anniversary puts some surreal pressure on the politicians to get their acts together. As a symbol of their frustration, a demonstration is planned on the site tomorrow as the protestors call for an end to the deadlock.

It’s been a year since the 9/11 Memorial has opened and, since then, over 4.5 million people have visited. But the Museum is still stuck in the baby steps that also infected the Memorial a few years back. In tough economic times, with both governments starving for cash flow at all turns, even our nation’s worst days are calculated as budget numbers. Whether you see it as political immaturity or a necessary reaction to a bureaucracy that is hopelessly broke, the Museum’s incompletion exists as a living reminder that much needs to be done rather than much has been completed.

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