This past Friday, Sept. 11, residents throughout Hudson County congregated at their respective memorials, including the Empty Sky memorial at Liberty State Park and Weehawken’s monument built from steel salvaged from the World Trade Center. But residents of Hoboken, which lost 57 residents during the September 11 terrorist attacks, stood at a grove of gingko biloba trees at Pier A Park planted in alignment with the former WTC footprint.
While the grove is beautiful in its own right, locals have voiced their anger over the city’s lack of a proper municipal memorial after 14 years. Especially when considering Hoboken lost the most residents of any zip code in the United States.
The city did have a glass memorial on Pier A with the residents’ names engraved, but it was damaged by the weather in 2011, and so far it has not been replaced.
Venting at City Hall
A Hoboken resident, Michele of Willow Avenue, admitted during the Sept. 2 City Council meeting that she ordinarily watches the meetings at home due to health problems. But was awe-struck when she realized the city still had not erected a memorial, and pulled her efforts to attend the most-recent meeting.
“First of all I believe [everyone] on the council should be responsible for the 9/11 memorial,” she said during the meeting. “I don’t know how you sit here every month and [don’t] do something about this. It’s taken a long time.”
At some point during the meeting, the City Council unanimously approved the $4.4 million Boathouse Cove Design by Marvel Architects. It was during this time that questions over the rightful allocation of city funds were brought up.
“I do hope that by the 15th year anniversary we will have a memorial to go to that we’re all proud of.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano said that Manasquan, N.J. didn’t lose any residents and yet they have a memorial.
“We lost over 50 people. We should have one,” she said during the meeting. “We ask all the time and we get the answer that we’re working on it.”
Glass half empty or full?
“When I came into office the 9/11 Memorial project was projected to cost somewhere close to $6 million and, unfortunately, that wasn’t something we could afford to do,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer said in an interview Wednesday, noting that the former administration had already created a design and ordered glass panels.
But last year, two bonds failed to pass, a design was rejected, and an estimated $500,000 was spent throughout the city’s process of creating a memorial.
In the year since, the city has spent $26,634.61 on planning the memorial, according to city spokesman Juan Melli.
“Of that, $20,000 was for the structural engineering consultant GMS (Gilsanz Murray Steficek LLP) and the remainder to transport the panels for testing at the Depp Glass facility,” he said.
The latest proposed plan, made public recently, features two symmetrical and 1 1/2 foot-high semicircular platforms that would each hold half of the glass panel – meant to evoke the Twin Towers.
The City Council passed a resolution during the Aug. 5 City Council meeting to award structural engineer GMS $10,000 from the city’s capital and calendar year 2015 budget, in order to continue on as consultants.
As for the glass panels purchased 10 years ago, the mayor explained they are not structurally sound enough to work with the prior memorial design.
Since the city hopes to salvage the panels, they plan on incorporating them in a new design “that is both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.”
“It was determined that a single layer of glass lamination was not structurally sound enough for the memorial, but more recently, we have created a triple laminated glass,” said Melli. “At this time, we are waiting for the engineer to analyze the triple laminated glass and let us know if it will work with the memorial design. If that is the case, we will be able to finalize the engineering design for the memorial and provide an estimated construction cost at that time.”
Hoping for the 15th anniversary
The Zimmer administration initially requested a $2.6 million bond for the rehabilitation of Pier A in August 2012 – $250,000 of which would have gone towards installing a 9/11 memorial. Later in October of that year, the ordinance was pulled after being carried over to multiple meetings.
In addition to the aforementioned Weehawken, Jersey City and Bayonne memorials, Union City and Secaucus have had memorials since at least 2007.
In the midst of a heated City Council election, it is unclear whether Zimmer’s supporters and foes on the council will agree to pass a bond for a memorial.
“I do hope that by the 15th year anniversary we will have a memorial to go to that we’re all proud of,” she said.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that I do believe we should have a memorial,” Zimmer added. “We lost a lot of members of the community, and I think it’s important both for the residents and the visitors to have a place to go to and remember.”
Paul Lichstein, a Hoboken resident for the past 15 years, has attended the Hoboken 9/11 memorial service every year and starkly recalls that of the 10th anniversary.
“I had the honor in 2011 of attending the event at Pier A Park in Hoboken marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,” he wrote in a recent letter to the Reporter. At that time, the city proudly displayed plans for a 9/11 memorial. Yet in the four years since, nothing has been done. Every September, our government promises to build a memorial…Hoboken has had 14 years to build it – more than enough time to get the job done.”
Steven Rodas can be reached at email@example.com.