NEW YORK (AP) — A debate over balancing the need to h
onor the memory of Sept. 11 with the enormous costs of running a memorial and museum at ground zero has been reawakened on the eve of the attacks’ 11th anniversary, as officials faced questions Monday over the project’s expected $60 million-a-year operating budget.
The number comes on top of the $700 million construction cost of the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. A report Sunday by The Associated Press noted that $12 million a year would be spent on security, more than the entire operating budgets of Gettysburg National Military Park and the monument that includes the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who leads the nonprofit foundation’s board, on Monday called the Sept. 11 memorial’s operating cost a necessity for security and other costs unique to hosting millions of visitors a year on the reborn site of two terror attacks, in 1993 and 2001.
Some congressional Democrats underscored their efforts to help get federal money to cover some of the operating cost, while a Republican senator reiterated his opposition. Even some victims’ family members are divided over whether the annual price tag represents the price of paying tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost or the cost of unnecessary grandeur.
At ground zero, several visitors Monday to the memorial plaza were surprised — but not put off — by the $60 million-a-year figure.
“Really?” said Pat Lee, 57, a Walmart manager from Atlanta. But, she said, “I don’t think the money is too much. Because it’s important to keep alive the memory of what happened.”
The centerpiece of the rebuilt World Trade Center site, the memorial includes both a serene, solemn memorial plaza, where waterfalls fill the fallen towers’ footprints, and a mostly underground museum that is to house such artifacts as the staircase workers used to escape the attacks.