Washington: Eleven years after the attacks on 11 September 2001, New Yorkers will mark the anniversary on Tuesday against a backdrop of health concerns for emergency workers and a feud over financing that has stopped construction of the $1 billion Ground Zero museum.
While notable progress on redevelopment of the World Trade Center has been made since early disputes over financial, design and security issues, the project remains hobbled by political battles and billions of dollars in cost overruns.
A major sticking point is the museum at the heart of the World Trade Center site redevelopment. Construction has been suspended because of a feud over finances between the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
When the foundation announced recently that for the first time, politicians would be excluded from having speaking roles in the 11 September anniversary ceremonies, it was seen by many victims’ families and others in the 9/11 community as a public reflection of these behind-the-scenes disputes.
Overall site redevelopment costs have grown to nearly $15 billion, up from $11 billion in 2008, according to a recent project audit.
But for many of the families of 9/11 victims and ailing Ground Zero workers, the redevelopment disputes are a disheartening sideshow to the rising loss of human lives.
When the 110-storey Twin Towers came down, thousands of tons of steel, concrete, window glass and asbestos came down with it. Thousands of liters of flaming jet fuel and burning plastics released deadly carcinogens.
Last week, the New York City Fire Department added nine names to the 55 already etched on a wall honoring members who have died of illnesses related to Ground Zero rescue and recovery work.
Some estimates put the overall death toll from 9/11-related illness at more than 1,000. Nationwide, at least 20 000 Ground Zero workers are being treated and 40,000 are being monitored by the World Trade Center Health Program.
The staggered nature of the respiratory diagnoses have complicated efforts to distribute $2.7 billion in federal victim compensation funds. A range of cancers is expected to be added to the list of ailments covered by the fund this month.
Some progress has been made by Larry Silverstein, the developer who owned the lease on the Twin Towers and is now building three office towers at the Ground Zero site, and the Port Authority. The National 1 1September Memorial and Museum Foundation has also raised hundreds of millions in private and public funding for the overall project.
One step forward was last fall’s opening of the 11 September, Memorial at Ground Zero, twin reflecting pools in the footprints of the towers. More than four million people have visited.
Also, One World Trade Center, one of the tallest towers in the country, is near completion and expected to open in 2014.
Yet disagreements over costs have undermined the rebuilding and hurt public relations. Among the disputes, the foundation insists the Port Authority owes it $140 million, according to a source familiar with the financial issues. The Port Authority believes it is owed $300 million.
Feal, a demolitions expert who lost part of his leg doing post-9/11 recovery work, is more concerned about the health problems that persist. He said “2,751 lives were lost that day. That’s sad, but they didn’t suffer long. These first responders have been slowly dying for 11 years.