FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Tourists at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum expressed disappointment Sunday about the new $2 fee that will be charged to visitors who buy passes to the attraction in advance on the Internet or by phone.
The $2 hike, which was quietly implemented March 1, is temporary, according to the New York Post, which first reported the story Sunday.
The online and phone passes were previously free. Visitors can still get free passes by registering for passes in person, but they are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis, and there are often long waits to get in.
“I don’t think that’s right,” said Patrice Garibaldi, of Philadelphia, when she was told about the price hike. “I don’t agree with that.”
The Post spoke with numerous outraged family members of 9/11 victims, many of whom were outraged that the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, which runs the memorial, went back on its vow to keep the memorial site free.
“It’s funny that after all of this, you have to pay, with all of the corporate sponsorship,” said David Pfeil, who was visiting with his family from Chicago on Sunday. “Everything becomes, ‘How do I get more money?’”
Pfeil added that the service charge “kind of takes away from it a little bit,” referring to the experience of the memorial.
The Memorial & Museum will cost $700 million to finish, and the fee’s proponents have argued that the extra revenue is needed to operate the facility, which costs $60 million per year to run, the paper reported.
“Like other similar institutions, in order to help support the operational needs of the 9/11 Memorial we have implement a service fee, solely for advance reservations,” said Memorial Foundation President Joe Daniels in a statement. Daniels makes $366,224 in salary and employee benefits from the Foundation, according to public IRS form filings. Ten other top employees make over $200,000 per year, the filings show.
Lisa Hallgren, of Boston, was visiting the memorial with her sons on Sunday afternoon.
“I think I understand both sides,” she said of the price hike. But she added later that she preferred that the foundation would keep it totally free and ask for an optional added donation.
The Memorial Foundation has collected over $400 million in private donations, filings show, and taxpayer-supported grants have accounted for approximately $300 million in construction costs over the years.