How the city looks and feels — and why it got that way.
For the last 10 years, Fritz Koenig’s 25-foot-high “Sphere for Plaza Fountain,” which survived the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings all around it, has been among the most public of memorials to 9/11. Hundreds of people see it daily in its prominent location at Battery Park, meaning that hundreds of thousands have taken the time to study its fissures and dents and scratches and bruises. It is an eloquent emblem of the city’s hours in the crucible and a symbol of its endurance.
Soon, however, the “Sphere” will be removed to accommodate a long-planned renovation of Battery Park. When exactly? Officials will not say. Where will it go? Officials will not say. When will it return? Officials will not say. Where will it be reinstalled? Officials will not say.
In other words, if you’d like to take one last look at the “Sphere,” you should hurry down to Battery Park at your earliest convenience. Or not.
The director of operations for the Battery Conservancy, Pat Kirshner, was quoted last month in a post by Julie Shapiro on DNAInfo.com as saying, “They have until April 30 to remove it.” The deadline has come and gone.
The conservancy, which manages Battery Park and developed the master plan into which the “Sphere” does not fit, referred an inquiry to the Parks Department.
The Parks Department, which is financing and supervising the $16 million, 18-month renovation project, referred the inquiry to the mayor’s press office.
The press office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who attended the installation of the “Sphere” as an interim memorial in March 2002, referred the inquiry to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the sculpture.
The Port Authority issued this statement through a spokesman, Steve Coleman: “We are continuing to explore options for a new temporary home for the Koenig ‘Sphere,’ where it will reside once we move it from Battery Park.” Period.
Among the Port Authority’s options is moving the 22.5-ton bronze to Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport. That is where many large-scale artifacts of 9/11 have been stored. The problem is that Hangar 17 is far from ground zero and off-limits to the public.
Perhaps the government is keeping quiet because it is too embarrassed to acknowledge that it hasn’t figured out in 10 years what to do with the “Sphere” and is instead scrambling to make arrangements at the last possible moment. It is no easy to task to pinpoint a plaza or sidewalk that could safely accommodate the mass and the weight of the sculpture.
Among the more outspoken champions of the “Sphere” is Michael Burke, the brother of Capt. William F. Burke Jr. of Engine Company 21, who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. He wants the “Sphere” returned to the trade center plaza, squarely in the midst of the 9/11 Memorial. His petition to that effect, Save the W.T.C. Sphere, has collected more than 7,200 signatures. But the notion of bringing the “Sphere” back was long ago rejected by the memorial foundation, controlled by Mr. Bloomberg.
“This is a denial of history,” Mr. Burke said in his petition. “America has no more vital historical artifact than the W.T.C. ‘Sphere.’”
In an interview on Thursday, he elaborated. “You should have a 9/11 experience when you’re standing on the site of the attacks,” Mr. Burke said. The “Sphere,” he said, is “not just a symbol of grief and terror,” he said, but also “a monument to world peace and cooperation” — as Mr. Koenig intended.
“I hope they treat it with dignity and respect,” Mr. Burke said. “But hope is a difficult word at ground zero.”