What about the Sphere?

To the editor,
Local residents, Downtown Express reports, are “finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the area around the W.T.C. site.” They complain about “pedestrian bottlenecks” and tourists that “stand idle in front of the 9/11 Memorial Preview site.”

Now imagine if the Koenig Sphere is not returned to the memorial site, where it belongs and logic and reason dictate. Instead, as the Port Authority currently plans, it is put on Liberty Street, between Greenwich and West Streets (it is not staying at Battery Park). Imagine the bottleneck and tourist crowds with their cell phone cameras that will create and the pleasure of navigating around that. This would spread the police and security, a necessary but understandably unpleasant presence, thinner and over a wider swath. Also, as the last remaining intact remnant of the W.T.C. and a recognized icon of the “triumph of the American spirit” (as Mayor Bloomberg has described it) over Al Qaeda, the Sphere is a natural terrorist target. If not by an organized group then certainly by a “lone wolf” wanna be, like the recently apprehended suspect from Washington Heights. Something for residents to think about as they pass it every day during their morning and evening commute. Or say, with their kids.

Will a security check be required to pass by?

There is only one logical place for the Sphere: the memorial. It is an eight-acre site. There is more than enough room. It is where it came from. This centers the memorial tourist crowd all in one place. It makes it easy (and cheaper) to protect it and visitors to it; the security presence is already there. It gets it and visitors out of the way of locals navigating the site. It provides the site with the authentic artifact that the museum advisory committee, filled with historians and preservationists such as filmmaker Ric Burns, Columbia Professor Kenneth Jackson, President of the New York Historical Society, NYC landmarks commissioner Robert Tierney, Robert Kuhn, archaeologist for the State Historic Preservation Office and Sara Bloomfield, Director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and also, me, called for. So that visitors would “know immediately where they are.” Catherine McVay of Community Board 1 has already said the Sphere is in a “kind of exile.”

It is also, by the way, what over 2,500 ordinary New Yorkers called for in public forums on the memorial design: “It’s just sitting down at Battery Park when it belongs here” (www.imagineny.org). Over 7,700 have signed my online petition calling for its return, including many 9/11 family members, attack survivors and downtown residents ( https://www.petitiononline.com/CptBurke/petition.html ). That makes over 10,000 that has an expressed a desire to see it return including pretty much every local expert in the field. So what’s stopping it? Because the “National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center” foundation, chaired by Michael Bloomberg and charged with faithfully preserving and conveying the history of Sept. 11 and which has solicited hundreds of millions in contributions and tax dollars supposedly for that explicit purpose has banned it. So, I guess, visitors do not know exactly where they are. Thereby relinquishing any claim to integrity as the guardian of 9/11 history and memory. And the safety and convenience of local residents? That has not been given a second thought.

There is no intelligent reason for not returning the Sphere. It works for all, on every level. It would probably cost less to return it than to relocate it. Local officials, including C.B.  1, U.S. Representative Jerold Nadler, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council woman Tiffany Chin and U.S. Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand must ensure its proper return to the memorial site. I mean, it’s unlikely that anything should happen. And the NYPD has proven pretty adept at rooting these things out; though stopping the Times Square car bomber was basically luck.

However, should anything happen it won’t involve visitors from Nebraska or Timbuktu; it will involve their constituents and their families. Then they will have to explain how they let such a sensitive artifact be placed in such a high traffic and vulnerable area – when it could have easily be returned to the memorial site. Where it would receive all proper and adequate security. And properly honor the innocents taken Sept. 11.
Michael Burke