Cost-Cutting Analysis of Memorial Gives Port Authority Greater Role

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The New York Sun

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will likely take on an even greater role in rebuilding ground zero, if the recommendations for a redesign of the World Trade Center Memorial are approved later this month.

Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg in May commissioned builder Frank Sciame to revisit the design for the memorial after estimates for its construction approached $1 billion. He produced five different cost cutting options to Messrs. Bloomberg and Pataki last week, and they chose the design released yesterday.

To achieve a bulk of the cost savings, Mr. Sciame’s analysis recommends reassigning responsibility for constructing the memorial to the Port Authority, which owns the 16-acre former site of the World Trade Center, from the Memorial Foundation. Officials from the Port Authority have recently indicated that they would take over the task of construction the memorial.

Mr. Sciame’s plan would cut the memorial’s costs by $162 million, to $510 million from the previous estimate of $672 million. It would lower infrastructure costs to $177.9 million from $301 million and reduce annual operating costs by $11.6 million.

Under the new design, several underground memorial galleries would be eliminated and the size of the museum would be reduced. The 2,979 names of victims of the terrorist attack would be moved above ground. The centerpiece of the memorial design, twin pools that mark the footprints of the Twin Towers containing waterfalls, remains intact.

Designer Michael Arad, who created the “Reflecting Absence” design with Peter Walker, said in a statement that the new design “includes some painful cuts” but “maintains key elements of the design.”

“While I am disappointed by this change, I recognize the imperative to move forward and begin construction of the memorial as soon as possible,” Mr. Arad said.

Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday that he would like to have the Port Authority agree to a firm price to prevent cost overruns.

“I will say that what Frank has come back with are relatively minor changes that will reduce the cost dramatically. Some people won’t like those changes, but we have to look at this and say you can build what you can afford,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

The report’s recommendations must be approved by the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is made up of appointees of the mayor and the governor. Their approval is expected by the end of June, after a seven-day public comment period.

The LMDC, through funds allocated by the federal government, will contribute $250 million to the memorial, and the state has committed an additional $80 million to build the visitor’s center. The Memorial Foundation has raised $131 million to date.

Yesterday, foundation officials said they supported shifting the construction responsibilities to the Port Authority and would soon launch a national fund-raising campaign aimed at both major donors and the general public.

The report said that construction could begin as early as next month, on a schedule to open on September 11, 2009.

The New York Sun

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