The WTC Memorial opens in less then 100 days
With less than 90 days until September 11th, National 9/11 Memorial managers are working diligently to open the completed plaza in time for the 10th anniversary commemoration. The plaza is now greened with 146 trees, water tests are ongoing in its twin pools, and cladding is being affixed to the west vent structures and new Pavilion. But while the actual World Trade Center (WTC) Memorial site is at the heart of preparations, planning for the influx of thousands of visitors has become a central issue.
This week, Community Board 1 heard updates on the state of construction at the Memorial site, including a report from Memorial President Joe Daniels, as well as from the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Lower Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez -- whose office is leading the planning process for bus and pedestrian access to the Memorial site.
According to Sanchez, the DOT has identified curbside-parking sites for buses during non-rush hours on Trinity Place/Church Street, Battery Place, and other areas, and will likely implement a new metered-bus-parking system. The bus-specific meters will limit their parking to three hours at a cost of $20 per hour, and will require each bus company to pre-register the vehicle prior to parking south of Houston Street.
The idea is to better manage the number of buses parking downtown, direct them to lower-volume streets, and educate them in advance to avoid overcrowding in the WTC area.
In addition, Sanchez says that his agency is working strategically with New York City Transit to promote mass transit for WTC access -- including new ads on the backside of millions of MetroCards -- as well as with the Port Authority for PATH access from New Jersey. The DOT also has eight new transportation and tourism partners that will help promote mass transit (including ferries), educate tour-company managers and bus drivers, and cooperate with the Memorial’s soon-to-open call center for visitor information.
In August, DOT will begin installing signs around Lower Manhattan to direct visitors to the WTC, and specifically to the new Memorial welcome area at Washington and Albany Streets. Family members of 9/11 victims will have access to their own welcome area at 90 West Street. To help manage higher pedestrian volumes, the DOT plans to make Broadway, West Street, Thames Street, and Fulton Street the primary walkways to access the site.
The new Memorial call center is slated to open on July 6th for victims’ families to begin reserving free passes to visit the plaza, either on or after September 11th. The call center will then open to the general public and tour groups on July 11th.
The Memorial plaza will be open to the public starting September 12th. Through a timed-reservation system, visitors can call the hotline or log onto the Memorial website to reserve the date and time of their visit, and create passes to print at home or at area kiosks.
In his report, Daniels also explained that the first Sunday of every month, starting October 2nd, will be designated “community evenings” at the Memorial plaza. Starting late afternoon, those Sundays will be for local residents only to visit the site. There also will be special visitation days for WTC site first responders, though no specific dates were announced.
Both Sanchez and Daniels agreed that while their agencies are doing their best to prepare for the historic Memorial plaza opening, they are ready to make adjustments that better serve visitor access and suit the local community in the weeks and months after this year’s September 11th ceremony.
Daniels also noted that the reservation system will be in place only until the surrounding WTC construction projects are complete. By then, visitors will have free, open access to the plaza as originally intended.
To prepare for visits to the WTC Memorial, Daniels reminded CB1 that individuals’ names are searchable at names.911memorial.org -- the new webpage that provides biographical information about each victim, and locates his or her name on the bronze panels that surround the twin reflecting pools.
Meanwhile the Memorial’s underground Museum is still on track to open by September 11, 2012, when visitors will have their first opportunity to descend into the lower levels of site and view artifacts of all sizes, walk beneath the twin pools, and view elements of the original WTC.