9/11 Museum Construction Grinds to Halt Amid $300M Fight

By Jill Colvin on December 15, 2011 8:35pm 

The National September 11 Museum may no longer open in Sept. 2012.
The National September 11 Museum may no longer open in Sept. 2012.
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DNAinfo/Olivia Scheck

LOWER MANHATTAN — Construction on the Sept. 11 Memorial Museum has “come basically to a halt” because of a bitter dispute over $300 million in cost overruns that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday is on the verge of ending up in court.

The Port Authority now says that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation owes the amount for cost overruns at the site — nearly double the $156 million that sources said they were originally seeking.

Spokesman Steve Coleman said the new figure surfaced after a recent review of infrastructure spending.

“This is a dispute that has been ongoing for years," he said. "Last year, the issues became critical and the Port Authority is actively negotiating with the city to resolve it."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who serves as chair of the foundation, had already acknowledged the spat threatened to delay the museum's opening beyond its Sept. 2012 target date.

But on Thursday, he said the Authority had cut off payments to workers, halting construction.

“Construction has come basically to a halt,” the mayor told reporters at an unrelated press conference in The Bronx, disputing the Port Authority's math.

“We don’t think we owe anything," he said. "In fact, we think that the Port Authority actually owes us something like $140 million."

Coleman refuted the mayor’s stop-work claim.

“We are in active negotiations with the city, but construction is ongoing at the Memorial,” he said.

An official familiar with the construction who spoke on the condition of anonymity said there is some work continuing on the site, but that the ranks of workers have dwindled from hundreds to several dozen.

The dispute has become so heated that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who revealed the cost hike during a radio interview Thursday, said the two sides could wind up in court.

It “is so bad they’re on the verge of litigation, believe it or not,” he said.

While the mayor said that he is “optimistic” that the Foundation will be able to “work out something with the Port Authority,” he acknowledged that legal action was a possibility.

“It’s hard to see us getting to a court room, but if it has to go there, we have to go there,” he said, adding that he believes the Foundation would win.

“We think we’re on firm legal ground,” he said.

Michael Frazier, as spokesman for the memorial agreed.

"The 9/11 Memorial has met every funding commitment. There is no validity to the Port Authority’s claim; in fact, as recently as [Wednesday] this claim was half of this amount," he said.

A spokeswoman for the mayor did immediately respond to a request for comment about the new sum being sought by the Port Authority.

The PA is also at odds with the city over who should cover $300 million in anticipated security costs downtown.

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