By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Visitors to the 9/11 memorial next fall will have to reserve tickets in advance to see the site, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday.
Memorial officials had previously described the 8-acre plaza as a new open green space for lower Manhattan, where local residents and workers could eat lunch and relax in addition to reflecting on the 9/11 attacks.
But when the memorial plaza is scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2011, it will be surrounded by construction, making it unsafe to allow free access, Bloomberg said Tuesday.
"We anticipate having ticketing so we can control the number of people who go through security and get onto the plaza, so we don’t have a crush," said Bloomberg, who is also chairman of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum foundation.
"We want to ensure people [who take bus tours of lower Manhattan] will be able to get in."
The tickets would be free, and the memorial foundation has not yet decided how many people will be allowed in per day, a spokesman said.
Bloomberg said he anticipated "enormous demand." Memorial officials have previously said they expect 5 to 7 million people to try to visit the site in the first year it is open.
The memorial includes a tree-shaded plaza surrounding enormous waterfalls in the footprints of the original Twin Towers. By the 10-year anniversary of the attacks next fall, Bloomberg said he expects much of the plaza to be complete, along with the waterfalls and parapets inscribed with the victims’ names.
But construction of the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center and Santiago Calatrava’s winged PATH hub will be going on right near the memorial, which means that the only safe entrance and exit point will be West Street, Bloomberg said.
The mayor implied that he expected access to the memorial to be more open once the site is complete several years from now.
The 9/11 museum, scheduled to open in 2012, is also expected to require tickets.
Bloomberg spoke Tuesday morning after unveiling a new 13-by-7-foot video wall at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site on Vesey Street. The nine 60-inch monitors display a countdown of the number of days until the memorial is scheduled to open — 292 as of Tuesday — along with renderings and recent construction photos.
Sharp Electronics donated the equipment and will provide a total of $1 million worth of audio/visual technology to the future museum.
"This is one of the most important things we have ever done," Sharp CEO Kozo Takahashi said at the 9/11 Preview Site Tuesday.
Monica Iken, a memorial foundation board member whose husband was killed in the attacks, said it was reassuring to see the memorial was finally going to open soon to honor the dead.
"This is the light we’ve been waiting for at the end of the tunnel," she said.