The 9/11 Tribute Center Museum, which plans to move from its current headquarters, adjacent to the World Trade Center, to a larger space in the Greenwich South section of the Financial District, is facing a potential hurdle. On November 4, the condominium board of the residential building at 88 Greenwich Street (which houses the new space that the Tribute Center plans to occupy) filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, objecting to the plan.
Although the board of the building, which is called the Greenwich Club, is not opposed to the Tribute Center moving in, it is asking the court to order the Museum to revise its plans, so that the facility’s entrance will be located on Rector Street (midway between Greenwich and Washington Streets), instead of at the corner of Rector and Greenwich Streets. The current plan would situate the Tribute Center’s new entrance directly alongside the front door to 88 Greenwich. The suit alleges that locating the entrance to the Tribute Center next to the front door used by residents will create confusion and congestion, along with crowding (both from pedestrians and tour buses) on the sidewalk in front of the building. The suit, which notes that the Tribute Center expects to attract as many as one million visitors annually to its new headquarters, also claims that the organization can prevent these problems by reconfiguring its plans to use an existing entrance on Rector Street, for a cost as low as $20,000.
“We welcome the Tribute Center as neighbors,” says Adam Leitman Bailey, the attorney representing the board of the Greenwich Club. “But it makes no logical sense,” for Thor Equities, the owner of the commercial space that the Tribute Center plans to occupy, “to put the entrance door right next to the residential building, inviting chaos and dangerous conditions for the occupants and visitors on a small residential street, when a better, larger location exists for the entrance door on the other side of the building.”
A spokesman for Thor Equities, which signed a 36-year lease with the Tribute Center last May, calls the lawsuit, “an insult to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.”
Mr. Bailey is a real estate attorney with a track record of high-profile cases in Lower Manhattan. In 2011, he represented the owners of 51 Park Place in a lawsuit brought by opponents of their plan for an Islamic community center proposed for the site. Mr. Bailey ultimately prevailed, although this project was never built. In the same year, he represented condominium buyers who had signed contracts to purchase units in the Trump SoHo New York building, located at Varick and Spring Streets. These buyers alleged they had been tricked by deceptive sales practices and were demanding return of the deposits they had put down on the apartments, which they no longer wished to purchase. (Mr. Bailey won for them a 90 percent refund.)
On November 7, both sides appeared in New York Supreme Court for preliminary arguments, with Mr. Bailey arguing that construction should be halted until the larger question of where to locate the Tribute Center’s entrance is resolved, and the lawyer for Thor Equities asking that the entire matter be dismissed. State Supreme Court judge Lucy Billings sided fully with neither party, agreeing to allow construction to continue, with the caveat that the defendants were, “proceeding at their own risk,” because she might later order the entrance moved to Rector Street. She also ordered both sides to prepare written arguments and appear before her again on December 19.
The 9/11 Tribute Center opened in 2006, with two, related goals: to help those traumatized by the terrorist attacks to September 11, 2001 to heal by sharing their stories, while at the same time helping visitors to the site of the attacks learn from (and be inspired by) these personal accounts. The Tribute Center’s motto is “stories of September 11th told by those who were there.” This person-to-person approach to history, which consists of linking visitors who want to understand the events that took place at the site with those who lived through them, make the Tribute Center experience deeply moving.
For ten years, the Tribute Center has been located at 120 Liberty Street, next to the Engine 10/Ladder 10 firehouse, which played a central role in the emergency response to the disaster, and in the former quarters of Liberty Deli, which served thousands of meals to first responders in the months after the attacks. The Tribute Center renovated this space to house exhibits of photographs and artifacts, while also serving as a base for walking tours and lectures. In that decade, the Tribute Center has served more than four million visitors, and trained 800-plus volunteers.
But the organization’s mission has outgrown its original headquarters. This led the September 11th Families’ Association, the not-for-profit group that founded the Tribute Center, to search for a larger home. Earlier this year, they found it, at 88 Greenwich. The new location is three blocks south of the original, Liberty Street site. The new facility, which is slated to debut in the spring of next year, will contain 40,000 square feet of space on three levels.