3:09 pm Sep. 10, 2012
The day before the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the museum meant to commemorate the tragedy remains stalled by a funding dispute between Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who chairs the museum's foundation, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, along with Chris Christie, controls the bi-state Port Authority charged with building it.
This morning on the radio, the governor reportedly blamed the impasse on a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.
When a reporter asked the mayor about the governor's comments at a press conference shortly thereafter, Bloomberg took umbrage.
"The governor's not been well-informed by his staff," he said.
Late last year, a longstanding dispute between the authority and the foundation over more than $100 million in construction costs (the actual number is something of a moving target) boiled over, prompting the authority to basically stop work at the museum.
The dispute's escalation coincided with the departure of former Port Authority executive director Chris Ward, who was widely credited with kickstarting development at the World Trade Center site but who never found favor with Cuomo, who had pledged to reign in costs at a site whose budget had grown tremendously.
And so while the museum was supposed to have been completed by tomorrow, the 11th anniversary of the attacks, now it's not clear that it will completed by this time next year.
According to the New York Times, which ran a front-page story about the dispute on Sunday, the foundation, "estimates that it will take another year of construction work to complete the museum and two or three more months to install the exhibits and prepare for an opening."
Asked today whether an opening in 2013 was possible, the mayor said, "Whether it's doable by then, I don't know."
The Times today reported that the dispute now centers on who would cover the museum's annual budget, estimated at $60 million per year, and who would retain operational control there.
"Then we have to go out and find sources, whether it's tickets or fundraising, there's federal aid," said the mayor, whose foundation has raised $450 million for the project. "Invariably it's going to be a combination of all of those things. I do not see any great risk that it would be the state or the city putting in state tax dollars or city tax dollars."
Earlier in the press conference, convened so the mayor could announce a new nursing school and cancer treatment center on the Upper East Side, a reporter asked Bloomberg whether he had any general reflections in advance of tomorrow's anniversary.
"Yeah, I just keep thinking, we've got to make sure that people remember what happened there," he said, adding, "And I think the memorial, and the museum when it gets done, will hopefully tell the lesson again and again and again to future generations."
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