Officials reverse stream on waterfalls


By Ronda Kaysen

Gretchen Dykstra, WTC Memorial Foundation president, said Tuesday that the waterfalls in the memorial design by Michael Arad and Peter Walker would run during the winter. Last month the foundation said the falls would be shut during the winter

Redevelopment officials devised a way to keep waterfalls cascading into the World Trade Center Memorial year round, a reversal from a previous decision that the waterfalls would be shut off during the winter months.

The fountains — a centerpiece of the memorial — will extend nearly 200 feet along each side of two square voids and cascade nearly 30 feet to reflecting pools below where the names of the victims of the 1993 and Sept. 11 attacks are listed. A mock memorial designed in Ontario, Canada concluded that a mid-winter trip to the memorial would leave visitors sodden with icy water and make for an unpleasant experience. Last month, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, which will own and operate the memorial, decided to shut the fountains down in the winter, a development first reported at DowntownExpress.com.

After tinkering with the engineering, the foundation decided the waterfalls could work in winter after all, foundation president Gretchen Dykstra told Downtown Express Tuesday.

“This just shows how complicated this project is,” Dykstra said, standing inside the World Financial Center lobby Tuesday evening. “Every question has a gazillion engineering aspects to it.”

Winterizing the waterfalls, which involves incorporating heating mechanisms into the design, will cost the foundation an additional $300,000 to build and an extra $750,000 a year to operate because of energy costs.

The memorial, Reflecting Absence, is estimated to cost $330 million, and the underground memorial museum will cost $160 million. Construction will begin this spring.

“We’ll work to make sure that the visitor experience is as comfortable as possible no matter what time of year,” said foundation spokesperson Lynn Rasic.

The foundation is in the midst of a $500 million fundraising campaign to build the memorial. On Tuesday, Governor George Pataki earmarked an additional $80 million of his capital budget for the Snohetta building, ensuring the likelihood that the cultural facility, in some incarnation, will be built.

The Snohetta building, designed by the Norwegian architectural firm of the same name, was intended to house the International Freedom Center and the Drawing Center, two museums planned for the site. But after sustaining fierce criticism from some 9/11 family members critical of a cultural center near the memorial, the Drawing Center bowed out of the development and Pataki removed the I.F.C.

Dykstra has insisted Snohetta is too expensive to build. Some in the cultural community breathed a collective sigh of relief to see the project — which had received lavish praise from the arts community — funded with money that did not need to be privately raised.

“I’m thrilled to hear this news. I’m delighted that they could all agree on something and reach this kind of commitment,” said Drawing Center president George Negroponte in a telephone interview Wednesday. The Drawing Center is considering building a permanent museum in the South Street Seaport. “It leaves some profound options open for people to agree upon when the time is right, when all of the dust settles and the temperature of this is lowered to some degree.”

“The faster we can get the funds committed for the memorial and the museum the better,” said Community Board 1 chairperson Julie Menin, who was appointed to the Memorial Foundation board Tuesday. Cantor Fitzgerald chairperson and C.E.O. Howard Lutnick and Savita Bhan Wakhlu, managing director of Jagriti Communications, were also appointed to the board Tuesday. Former Disney C.E.O. Michael Eisner resigned from the board because of time constraints, Rasic said.

With both museums gone from the site, the building’s content is decidedly open for discussion. The building will be smaller than originally conceived and moved further away from the North Tower footprint. Aside from that, the details are vague. Redevelopment officials insist the programming will complement the memorial and the memorial museum.

“We know now that it [Snohetta] must be related to 9/11 and it will be related to 9/11, but it will try to get some inspiration, it will not just be a place of sadness,” foundation chairperson John Whitehead said at a press conference Tuesday. “We must find the positive aspect to 9/11.”

In the past, Dykstra has indicated a desire to see the building used for a visitors’ center and a bathroom facility. A gift shop will also be housed in the building, Whitehead said.

Many families that opposed the I.F.C. and the Drawing Center had hoped to see the Snohetta building turned into an additional museum of 9/11. A smaller Snohetta, moved further from the memorial, indicates they might not be getting what they hoped for. “It was not handed over to the families as they may have wished,” said Negroponte of the Drawing Center. “A decision has been made that flies in the face of what the families wanted.”

Indeed, the recent memorial decisions did not bode well with those family members. The group plans to hold a press conference on Thursday morning after the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s board meeting. “I don’t believe it’s their intention to bury 9/11, but that is essentially what has happened,” said Charles Wolf, whose wife died in the attacks. “Everything is going to be below ground. It’s as if they’re trying to hide it.”

Wolf learned about the $80 million Snohetta allocation from the Associated Press and about reinstating the waterfalls from Downtown Express. “They’ve already reached their conclusions and they haven’t even considered our thoughts on the matter… They’re inviting another fight.”

Content decisions for Snohetta have yet to be made public, said redevelopment officials, and the families will eventually have the opportunity to see the designs. “As we prepare for the memorial groundbreaking, the L.M.D.C. will continue to consult with and inform all constituencies regarding the design process,” said L.M.D.C. spokesperson John Gallagher in a statement to Downtown Express.

Despite Wolf’s frustration with the redevelopment process, he was one of the first people to participate in a new foundation project, Story Builder. His account of 9/11 is now part of a permanent digital archive on the foundation’s Web site, www.buildthememorial.org. It will eventually be incorporated into the Memorial Museum. He participated to help move the fundraising effort along, he said. “We need to encourage fundraising and press our points as the fundraising continues. If we don’t get some momentum going, it’s not going to happen.”


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