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9/11 Museum Won't Open on Anniversary of Attacks as Planned

By Julie Shapiro | December 29, 2011 11:57am | Updated on December 29, 2011 1:39pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — A $300 million funding dispute has pushed back the planned opening date of the 9/11 Museum at the World Trade Center site, a museum official said Thursday.

Even if the Port Authority and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum resolve their money disagreement soon, there won't be enough time to finish the museum by the 11th anniversary of the attacks next fall, said Joe Daniels, president of the memorial and museum.

"At this point, it is not realistic that the museum is going to open on Sept. 11, 2012," Daniels said Thursday morning.

The dispute surfaced this fall, when the Port Authority all but stopped construction on the underground museum, alleging that the memorial foundation owed $300 million in cost overruns.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, chairman of the memorial foundation, countered that it was the Port Authority who owed money — about $140 million — to the memorial and museum.

The dispute has grown so heated that it could wind up in court, Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls the Port Authority, both said earlier this month.

Daniels said Thursday that he was optimistic the two sides would reach an agreement, because he knows how important it is to the Port Authority, which lost 84 employees on 9/11, to get the museum built.

"This is an emotional project for them," Daniels said. "We'll get this project back on track."

But Daniels also said that unlike the 9/11 Memorial, which he felt must be open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks as a symbol of recovery and healing, the 9/11 Museum could open later than its scheduled date.

"A singular date is not that important," Daniels said. "For me, it's about getting it right."

The museum will feature educational exhibits about the events leading up to 9/11, the attack itself and the aftermath. Multimedia displays will tell the first-person stories of those who were most affected, and there will also be a space for visitors to learn about each of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed.

The Port Authority released a statement on the funding dispute Thursday, saying, "This is an issue that has been present for years. The Port Authority is actively negotiating with the city to resolve it."

Cuomo's office did not immediately comment.

Daniels spoke Thursday morning from the 9/11 memorial plaza, after announcing that the memorial had welcomed more than 1 million visitors from more than 120 countries since it opened on Sept. 11, 2011.

Even on cold winter days, the eight-acre tree-dotted plaza welcomes more than 10,000 visitors, who can run their hands over bronze panels inscribed with the victims' names and peer into the deep waterfalls in the Twin Towers' footprints.

"It makes all the work that has gone into building this very special place worth it," Daniels said of the visitor milestone.