The PJ Tatler

9/11 Families Outraged Over Museum Plan to Charge Visitors

The 9/11 Memorial Foundation, charged with running the memorial museum, promised America that access to the museum would be free.

They have now gone back on that promise and have outraged families of the victims who believe it a travesty that anyone should have to pay to honor their loved ones.

New York Post:

The 9/11 Memorial foundation, funded to the tune of $830 million, has begun nickel-and-diming visitors for ticket reservations.

Even though the nonprofit has long vowed admission to the sacred site would be free, it is now demanding $2 per ticket for all advance reservations made online or by phone.

Officials quietly rolled out the fee on March 1 — but it did not escape the notice of some outraged families of Sept. 11 victims.

“I don’t want the American public to have to pay a dime to pay respects to my son,” said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son, Christian, died in the World Trade Center attacks.

“They made . . . a vow that no one would ever be charged for going to the memorial, but money is the bottom line here,” she fumed.

“They’re making money off the people that died. It’s disgusting,” said Jim Riches, a retired FDNY deputy chief who lost his firefighter son, Jimmy, on 9/11.

“The memorial should be free for everybody to pay their respects. You wouldn’t charge money to get into a cemetery.”

According to the memorial’s Web site, the booking fees are necessary to “safely manage visitor capacity” while surrounding construction projects are completed.

The nonprofit claims on its Web site that it “does not receive city, state or federal funding for its operations.”

But from 2006 to 2011, it pulled in about $295 million in taxpayer-funded grants for construction.

It also reaped more than $430 million in private donations after the tragedy, including pennies raised by millions of patriotic American schoolchildren.

“Like other similar institutions, in order to help support the operational needs of the 9/11 Memorial, we have implemented a service fee, solely for advance reservations,” foundation CEO Joe Daniels told The Post.

The memorial compares it to the American Museum of Natural History’s $2 charge and the Washington Monument’s $1.50 reservation fee.

But critics are calling it a two-bit money grab by fat cats hemorrhaging funds. Construction costs are now pegged at $700 million for the museum and memorial — more than it took to build the Empire State Building.

The incredibly bloated salaries of the directors is an outrage:

The foundation, chaired by Mayor Bloomberg, says the memorial and museum will cost $60 million a year to operate once complete. Security will cost $12 million a year, and another $5 million will go to operating the waterfall tributes.

Add that to the nonprofit’s swanky salaries: Ten of the 12 directors raked in more than $200,000 in 2011. Daniels pulled down $336,224 in salary and benefits, and Museum Director Alice Greenwald made $351,171, tax filings show.

Since tomorrow is tax deadline day, how about having the National Park Service shell out $20 million a year of your tax dollars? Forget about cutting some of those gargantuan salaries down to size. The foundation is talking about reviving a Senate bill that would do just that.

The museum opened in 2011, but construction was shut down by the Port Authority due to $300 million in cost overruns. Perhaps someone will explain to me how the directors are making such monumental salaries while demonstrating an incompetence rarely seen outside of government.

Museums were free when I was a kid. Now, admission at many of them costs as much as box seats at the ballgame. Not only are the poor shut out of experiencing what the museum has to offer, but even Middle Class families end up paying a significant part of their disposable income to enjoy what the museum experience has to offer.

The 9/11 museum wasn’t supposed to be like that. But mismanagement and misplaced priorities may make the 9/11 memorial just another urban luxury that only the well off can truly afford.