Port Authority Said to Seek Support for New WTC 'Sphere' Site

The Sphere was first moved to The Battery in March 2002, for the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2013 it was moved again, to this location in The Battery, in order to make way for the reconstruction of the park. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

May. 31, 2016

A final decision may be near on a permanent home for the World Trade Center Sphere, the battered sculptural survivor of 9/11.

According to several Community Board 1 members, a Port Authority official has encouraged them to support the siting of the 45,000-pound brass orb in Liberty Park. Due to open this summer, the park is an elevated, one-acre green space atop the Vehicle Security Center that overlooks the Sept. 11 Memorial Plaza.  

The board members said that Glenn Guzi, the authority’s program director, mentioned during a recent tour of the park that the agency would be “very open,” as one member put it, to the board’s backing for the move from its longtime temporary home in The Battery.

“I think it was a really great olive branch to say, would the community board like to weigh in,” noted committee member Wendy Chapman, who was on the tour. “To me it was almost like asking us to ask for it.”

“The easiest spot for [the authority] is to plop it down in Liberty Park,” said committee member Anthony Notaro. “If we just say, ‘OK, that’s a good idea,’ then that’s what they’re going to do.”

Since March 2002, Fritz Koenig’s Sphere, formerly the centerpiece of the World Trade Center plaza, located between the two towers, has resided among many other memorials in The Battery. It is a site where many people—including Warrie Price, president of the Battery Conservancy—say it does not belong.

A Port Authority spokesman would not comment on Guzi’s discussions with community board members, but said the agency continues to support the Sphere’s return to the World Trade Center site. “No decisions have been made yet about doing so,” the spokesman, Steve Coleman, said in an email. “And it hasn’t been determined where on the site it would go assuming it were to be returned.”

There are still those who call for the sculpture’s return to the plaza. “The Sphere should really go back to where it originally was,” said CB1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes.

Memorial officials have continually rejected the idea, saying the Sphere does not fit in with Michael Arads spare design for the Memorial, called Reflecting Absence.

“Our position remains the same,” Memorial spokesman Michael Frazier told the Trib last week in an email.

While some on the committee said it is unrealistic to think that the Memorial will change its mind, others continue to hold out hope.

“It belongs in the Memorial [Plaza], it doesn’t belong in Liberty Park,” said committee member Tammy Meltzer. “Putting that in Liberty Park turns it into a Liberty Memorial Park.  “I really would hope that it doesn’t go in Liberty Park.”

In the meantime, however, the Port Authority did move a war sculpture to Liberty Park—the horse soldier statue “De Oppresso Liber,” commemorating the Army Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Meltzer said she could imagine the Sphere on the plaza north of the Memorial Museum and away from the plaza’s main attraction, the two pools. Not surprisingly, she found agreement from Michael Burke, a persistent and leading advocate for siting the Sphere on the plaza.

“Liberty Park should be left for Downtowners and the Memorial Plaza is where any and all 9/11 material belongs,” said Burke, whose firefighter brother, Capt. William Burke, died on Sept. 11.

The board invited Memorial officials to discuss the matter at its June 13 Planning Committee meeting. In response, the Memorial deferred to the Port Authority for that discussion, according to Diana Switaj, CB1s director of planning and land use.



'Rejection of the Sphere is an outrage against truth and memory'

Once again, the six figured salaried officials at the National September 11 Memorial Foundation have left the iconic WTC Sphere—and downtown—in a lurch. They stand by their indefensible and solitary position of rejecting the only remaining intact artifact of the WTC from the WTC memorial. And forcing it into downtown's newest green space.

Tell me, how is moving the Sphere from one public park where it infringes upon the public enjoyment to another where it infringes upon the public's enjoyment a solution? A solution for whom?

In November and December of '03 the Municipal Art Society ran a series of public forums on the final eight memorial design choices. The thousands of participants overwhelmingly called for the return of the Sphere. "It's just sitting down at Battery Park when it belongs here," they complained.

Though the Lower Manhattan Development Corp was bound by its own rules and policies to carefully consider and apply public opinion this report was flat out ignored. In effect then, "Reflecting Absence," our billion dollar, eight acre "memorial" is the result of an illegitimate process—an elitist, self entitled .001% dictating to New York and America the September 11 memorial they "needed and deserved."

So returning the Sphere would be actually listening to the people—something the Foundation has never shown an inclination to do—and restore legitimacy to the memorial.

And perhaps inspire more than happy selfies and naps upon its stone benches.

If returning the last remaining intact artifact of the WTC steps from where it stood for 30 years and on September 11 survived the attacks would somehow infringe upon the "integrity" of Michael Arad's "spare" billion dollar design then it's pretty damn obvious: there is something wrong with the design.

Though memorial officials seem to be clueless to it, their first debt at this place is not to Michael Arad, but to truth.

Imagine if the founders and guardians of our other iconic memorials felt the same way as our esteemed officials at the National September 11 Memorial Foundation: the Dome at Hiroshima would have been long disposed of; the camp remnants at Auschwitz, including the notorious sign, "Arbeit Macht Frei" at the entrance—gone; Gettysburg would be history as in disappeared to. Imagine if the architect of the "spare" memorial that sits atop the USS Arizona said, "it's perfect, it's beautiful. Now get rid of the ship."

The rejection of the Sphere is an outrage against truth and memory, an act of historical vandalism based on an illegitimate process that conveys a lie.

Hundreds of trees, which he hated, were added to Arad's design. The underground galleries disappeared. The names plaza level, which Foundation Chairman Michael Bloomberg has said is the most significant part of the memorial, were added, over Arad's protest. The "Survivor Tree," which no one has any memory of, was added to Arad's "spare" design.

Yet somehow returning the Sphere steps from where it stood, on the north side of the museum pavilion, west of the oculus, not visible from the entire south void and barely from most of the north, that we cannot have.

There is not an ounce of reason or intelligence or integrity to the Foundation's "position." They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Anyone who looks at that photo of the Sphere at Ground Zero and says it has no place at the National September 11 Memorial is either deluded or lying. They sure as hell should not be responsible for deciding what must be part of the memorial. Or what must then be part of downtown's parks.

The Foundation's "position" is priceless; because they won't do their duty, you, downtown, get stuck with artifacts and sculptures you need like a hole in the head.

Who does the Sphere belong to? Who does the WTC 9/11 memorial belong to? Who does the memory of 9/11 belong to? Who does downtown's parks belong to? Joe Daniels and his minions at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, or us, the people?

Michael Burke