updated 3/10/2006 11:22:35 PM ET 2006-03-11T04:22:35

Families of people who perished in the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center petitioned the court Friday to stop construction next week of a ground zero memorial that they say fails to do justice to the memory of the victims.

Preliminary construction work on the World Trade Center memorial is to begin Monday, rebuilding officials said Friday. An official groundbreaking ceremony won’t happen for a few more weeks, said Stefan Pryor, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. Pryor said the memorial design “will fulfill the highest standards of both safety and beauty.”

Friday’s petition filed by the Coalition of 9/11 Families Inc., says the relatives want to block plans to pour a concrete slab over the historic “footprint” of the trade center’s north tower, the site of the remains of hundreds of victims.

“The footprints of the World Trade Center are the final resting place for over 30 percent of the individuals who were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001, and whose remains were never found,” said court papers filed in state court. “As such, it is considered sacred ground by the petitioners.”

The petition says that unless the current plans are blocked, “the ability to visit and contemplate the authentic site where their family members’ last remains reside will be forever lost.”

Planners call lawsuit ‘obstructionist’
John P. Gallagher, vice president for communications of the LMDC, the state agency in charge of redevelopment at ground zero, said in a statement, “This obstructionist lawsuit is without merit and we plan to proceed on schedule with building a memorial that both pays tribute to those we lost and honors historic preservation principles.”

The coalition’s lawyer, Alan Fuchsberg, said he was told to return to court Monday.

He said the builders will have at least two weeks of measuring and planning to do before they began construction, so the coalition still had time to win a court order stopping the project.

“We’re in the really early stages, the very beginning” of the project, said William H. Goldstein, an executive vice president with the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.

For the next six to eight weeks, workers will prepare the site for more heavy construction and install new protective coverings on the footprints and box beams that make up the towers’ foundation, Goldstein said. After that, workers will begin to pour concrete footings to support the memorial.

“Reflecting Absence,” the memorial chosen two years ago, marks the twin tower footprints with reflecting pools surrounded by a glade of trees and names of the nearly 3,000 victims killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 1993 trade center bombing.

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