By Rick Pezzullo
The volunteer organizers of a planned tri-municipal 9/11 Remembrance Memorial in Croton were greeted with unsympathetic ears from the majority of the Cortlandt Town Board last week when they suggested the town contribute the bulk of the funds for the project.
Janet Mainiero, a Croton resident and professional urban planner who initiated the idea for a regional memorial two years ago, told Cortlandt officials fundraising efforts to date have only generated $20,000, leaving the committee far short of the $100,000 needed for the revamped “Reaching Through the Shadow” design that is slated to built at Croton Landing on the Hudson River.
“Nationally it seems as a society we’re walking away from this. It’s just history,” Mainiero said of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “There are generations of people who have to understand this could happen again.”
Unable to draw corporate interest, with Entergy being the latest to decline donating, Mainiero said for the project to become a reality Cortlandt, Croton and Buchanan need to make contributions. Based on the size of each municipality, it’s been calculated Cortlandt’s share would be about $65,000.
“It’s proven not to be a corporate project. It’s proven to be a community grassroots favored project,” said James Rhodes, the Croton architect who submitted the preferred design of a six-foot-high woman, representing life, reaching up towards a steel girder, a gesture that symbolizes hope. The bronze sculpted female statue was created by Croton’s Lauren Davis and the steel beam was secured from the World Trade Center.
Other than Supervisor Linda Puglisi, the town board was unreceptive to the predicament of the committee, with Councilwoman Ann Lindau even questioning why the volunteers have not reached into their own pockets to help defray the costs.
“While it’s a good idea, I don’t have it at the top of my list,” Lindau remarked about the memorial, which would honor four Cortlandt resident that were killed on 9/11/01, along with military veterans and first responders. “The public has not gathered around this. Maybe the money isn’t there. It’s a tough time.”
Councilman Frank Farrell said he supported the project but felt some of the estimates have been “squishy.” Councilman Richard Becker insisted Croton should pay a larger share than $16,500 since the memorial will be located in the village.
“The project built right there is kind of a public improvement and an attraction in their park,” Becker said. “I think it’s a terrific idea but some people in the community don’t feel municipal money should be used for it. I would like to see alternatives. How about if we do this in stages because of budgetary concerns?”
Rhodes said it was vital that at least the steel beam and boulder be mounted this year or any support for it could diminish entirely.
“This is for everyone in the community. It’s not just for a few people who died,” he said.
Puglisi disputed the notion of any “9/11 fatigue” in the community and said the volunteer committee has worked tirelessly to ensure the memorial is constructed.
“To me there is no 9/11 fatigue and there never will be. This is a holy, sacred piece of steel,” Puglisi said. “This is so unique. This is so special. This is something we should embrace. The community at large is extremely supportive of this project. With the recession people have had economic difficult times.”
The town board asked Mainiero to provide a report specifically outlining all the money that has been raised and the estimates for renovating the land and constructing the memorial, which is also planned to include a reflective area with benches and a flag pole.
“If we’re going to do it, I want it done right,” Farrell said.