Relatives of Sept. 11 victims upset by plans to move this year’s commemoration have reached a deal with Mayor Michael Bloomberg that will allow them to mourn at ground zero, the mayor’s office said Thursday.
Bloomberg said he met with the families and agreed to their proposal that they be allowed to descend briefly into the seven-story pit that was the World Trade Center’s basement to pay their respects.
The city announced last month that the sixth anniversary ceremony could not be held at the 16-acre site, as it had been each year since the 2001 attacks, because construction there made the area too dangerous for such a large gathering.
But Bloomberg said Thursday that the families’ proposal for “a very limited and controlled level of access” to the pit had been deemed safe by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the lower Manhattan site.
“We will work with the Port Authority to allow family members to safely descend the ramp in a single file stream that keeps moving into a limited area below grade to pay respects and to then ascend back to street level,” he said in a statement.
The main memorial ceremony will be held, as originally planned by the city, at a plaza off the southeast corner of the site, Bloomberg said. The families had objected that the park was too small. Some relatives of those who died had been alarmed that there was to be no access to what they view as hallowed ground.
The remains of many of those who died have still not been identified, leaving their relatives without anything to bury. For this reason, the families say, ground zero is a grave site, and they want to walk down a ramp to the bottom of the pit so they can touch the bare bedrock.
'It's not safe'
It was unclear Thursday whether the agreement would allow family members to descend as far as bedrock level. A telephone call to one of the most vocal advocates for a ground zero commemoration, Rosaleen Tallon, was not immediately returned Thursday night.
In announcing the agreement, Bloomberg repeated his position that holding the full ceremony at the site would have put mourners in danger.
“It’s not safe,” he told reporters a day earlier. “We’re not going to put anybody’s life in jeopardy. We’ve had too much tragedy on that site.”
The group of families had insisted that they have a First Amendment right to gather at the site, and they had threatened to take the issue to court if it was not resolved in their favor.