NYC mayor asks if 9/11 memorial choice was rushed

September 8, 2011 - 5:40 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — With the opening of the Sept. 11 memorial days away, Mayor Michael Bloomberg still wonders if the choice of a design for the tree-lined, 8-acre plaza may have been too rushed.

"I always thought that we did it a little bit wrong," the mayor, who is also the chairman of the memorial foundation, said ahead of the 10th anniversary of the attacks. "We picked a design right away and then waited for things to quiet down before raising the money. You want to raise money when the juices are flowing and then have the perspective of history as opposed to journalism to design things that go on for a long time."

"The connection between today and 100 years from now is pretty tenuous," Bloomberg added. "Hopefully this memorial will still ... give a message 100 years from now."

The decision to place the memorial on the decimated World Trade Center site made it necessary to move forward fairly quickly on its creation, Joe Daniels, the president of the memorial foundation, said Thursday.

"We're building on the site where the atrocity took place," Daniels said. "It's very important to stitch back together the actual, physical real estate."

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Bloomberg spoke about the attacks that helped define the final months of his campaign for office — and may have helped him win the city's top job. The mayor will join President Barack Obama and other officials at Sunday's national commemoration ceremony.

A decade ago, Bloomberg told voters that his years building and directing his media empire would help him repair the city's economy, and he has a reputation as a business-minded, pragmatic politician. At times, his brusque manner has led to misunderstandings with family members of 9/11 victims.

But the mayor says that, from his perspective, a focus on the city's finances is a key way to honor the dead.

"They wanted to build a better life. They were working for a living to take care of their families," he said. "We can't bring them back, but we can take over that responsibility for them. And that means you have to have an economy. You have to have a tax base. You have to have social programs, and schools."

Now in his third and final term, the mayor said that he didn't see the attacks and their aftermath as a significant part of his legacy, although he did say he believed he was a catalyst in getting past impasses among stakeholders in the rebuilding of the site.

"I don't know that I want to be remembered in terms of 9/11," he said. "I want the public to remember that somebody was there — not even knowing who they were. That they built the right thing. That they did the right thing. That they made the right decisions."

And with two more anniversary ceremonies to go before he leaves office, Bloomberg said, he may significantly change future observances, which have always been marked by the reading of the names of the thousands of victims of the attacks. It may be time to end that practice, the mayor said.

"The names were read because there was no other place where you could see the names. Now the names are all around both the (memorial) voids. And maybe it is time," he said. "We'll have to ask people. And I guarantee you it will be controversial."

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Samantha Gross can be reached at www.twitter.com/samanthagross