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September 11 Memorial lays off staff members and furloughs others
An inscription at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, May 12, 2014. Damon Winter/The New York Times.

by Colin Moynihan



NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Since its subterranean galleries opened in 2014, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan has depended upon income from millions of visitors to pay for programming, operating costs and security.

Now, deprived of ticket revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic and facing a deficit of up to $45 million over the next year, the organization has started a fundraising campaign and resorted to furloughs and layoffs that affect almost 60% of its staff.

“We’ve had to make difficult and painful decisions to forestall the deficit and address the loss of revenue,” the memorial and museum’s president and chief executive, Alice M. Greenwald, said in a statement, adding: “It is not easy to let go of dear friends and colleagues who have contributed so much to this sacred place.”

Although the outdoor memorial is scheduled to reopen July 4, the museum is expected to remain closed for now, in accordance with city and state guidelines.

The eight-acre memorial, with sunken granite pools in the footprints of the ruined towers, opened in 2011. Battles over financing delayed the opening of the 110,000-square-foot museum, constructed 70 feet below the memorial site, until 2014.

Since then visitors from all 50 states and more than 170 countries have come to the museum, which is filled with artifacts that evoke the pain and sacrifice of the people touched by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The museum’s collection includes part of the fuselage of American Airlines Flight 11, the passenger jet that struck the north tower; steel fragments from that tower’s facade; and the charred shell of a firetruck.




The collection also includes an assortment of everyday items — a pair of glasses, a comb, a wallet, a wedding ring — that were recovered from the rubble of the towers and had belonged to people who perished there.

Officials with the memorial and museum said that it does not regularly get city or state money. It has received $4.6 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program that will go toward payroll, rent and utilities, they added, and has applied for a grant of $2 million in government money made available under the 9/11 Memorial Act.

Earned revenue, mainly museum admissions, covers more than 95% of the memorial and museum’s annual expenses, the officials said, adding that the organization’s annual operating expenses of about $80 million had recently been cut by about 50%, in part through furloughs and layoffs.

Out of 337 employees, 148 had been laid off, memorial and museum officials said, 138 had been retained and 51 had been furloughed. Hourly staff members will receive $500 in severance. Other severance packages are based upon years of employment, with a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $20,000.

The organization has also implemented tiered salary reductions for all full-time employees. Those ranged from 5% for lower-paid employees to 15% for Greenwald, who was listed in 2018 tax documents, the most recent that are publicly available, as receiving a base salary of $530,000.

Because the pandemic has limited travel and tourism, it is likely to be difficult for the museum to match its previous attendance numbers immediately upon reopening, officials with the institution said. That is part of what has prompted the creation of a page on its website that asks for donations and cites one of its most ardent supporters, former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“The 9/11 Memorial is a beacon of hope as this city recovers from a health crisis,” Bloomberg, the chairman of the board of the memorial and museum, is quoted as saying. “And it will provide inspiration to many around the world.”

© 2020 The New York Times Company










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