FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Anna Goldberg walked through the 9/11 Memorial Plaza for the first time Monday morning — on her way to bring her 2-year-old daughter to a local playground.
The Financial District mom had never thought to visit the memorial when it was surrounded by security fences and required visitors to reserve tickets in advance and then pass through metal detectors to get in.
That all changed last week, when the security barriers were finally taken down — allowing residents and workers to stop by or cut through the memorial without making advance plans.
“The whole process of reservations, waiting to get in, seemed confusing and too daunting,” said Goldberg, 37, who worked in the Twin Towers several years before the Sept. 11 attacks. “But this seems right, being able to make this area part of the city again, making it open — it’s a way to respect the space, by revitalizing it.”
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum quietly took down the fences and ended the reservation process on May 15, several hours after President Barack Obama helped dedicate the newly opened underground museum beneath the memorial plaza. It was the first time the site had been open to the public since 9/11.
On Monday morning, along with the hordes of tourists, many New Yorkers passed through the memorial, some visiting for the first time, others just happy to be able to walk more directly from the Financial District to Battery Park City.
“It’s intense in a way, to just be casually cutting across, but I’m glad that it’s open this way,” said Matthew Gombos, 20, a Bronx resident who was walking through the plaza after a job interview in Battery Park City. “I’ve visited before, but I like how it’s really a public space now — I think it's great.”
Designers had long envisioned the plaza as true public space, where tourists and New Yorkers alike could sit among the greenery and massive waterfalls where the Twin Towers once stood. Some visitors said it was still too soon to feel like the site of a such a monumental tragedy could become more of regular public green space, but they said it would likely continue to transform, especially as the World Trade Center office buildings open and bring workers to the area again.
Memorial entrances and exits now sit at Liberty and Greenwich streets, Liberty and West streets, and Fulton and West streets, with most pedestrians entering at Liberty Street.
Eight police officers were helping to deal with crowds outside of the Liberty Street entrance on Monday morning.
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the pedestrian flow.
The 9/11 Memorial is now open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.