Families of 9/11 victims are fed up — and they’re calling in the feds.
Jim Riches, chair of the 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters, pleaded yesterday for the U.S. National Park Service to completely take over control of the beleaguered National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
Some 9/11 family members, like Riches, are exasperated with the museum after years of delays. Although the 9/11 memorial site opened last fall, construction of the museum has been hampered by ongoing financial disputes between museum officials and the Port Authority, which controls the World Trade Center site.
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The museum originally promised to open its doors this September, but now its opening date is an open question. Meanwhile, some estimates report its costs have ballooned past $1 billion.
Riches, an FDNY fire chief whose firefighter son died in the attacks, said that after the soaring costs and delays, he wants control handed over to more capable hands: The National Park Service.
“They’re just not getting the job done,” he told Metro of the museum.
“Let them run it. They have the expertise," said Riches.
Last weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, asking the National Park Service for funding and to take a “greater role.”
Spokespeople for both the Port Authority and the 9/11 Museum said they supported the governors' request.
Riches' letter, which was distributed to 9/11 families, suggested that those in charge of the museum now should be transitioned into a fundraising role only.
Bloomberg has pushed for federal legislation that would allot up to $20 million in annual funding to the memorial.
“We’d love to get 20 million bucks a year," the mayor said yesterday, according to WNYC. "We have to have a memorial and museum that will tell the story."
But Riches told Metro that not one more dollar should be funneled to the museum if current organizers are still in charge, even if that means further delays.
“It’s been a money pit for 10 years," he said. “We don’t want to pour more taxpayer money down the drain."
Who runs the 9/11 Museum?
The 9/11 Museum is a non-profit controlled by a foundation with a board of directors, led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg also appointed the president, Joseph Daniels, in 2006. Daniels’ six-figure salary, quoted to be $371,307, according to the New York Post last year, also irks Riches as another frivolous expense. The Post noted that 11 staffers at the museum made more than $170,000 in 2009.
The memorial opened last year, on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the goal had been for the museum to open this September, for the 11th anniversary.
However, funding disputes led to stalled construction last year, after subcontracts said they were not getting paid. The Port Authority and the Sept. 11 Memorial both accused the other of owing money.
The Daily News reported costs to be $1.3 billion, up from a once-estimated $680 million. However, museum spokesman Michael Frazier said the budget is at about $700 million.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg contends that the project is not hugely over budget, according to the Daily News. “The agreements that we’ve had over the years have been basically kept to,” he said.