Bloomberg against 'Tribute in Light'

Island Council members to make final pitch Tuesday for temporary memorial at Fresh Kills By HEIDI SINGER

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has decided against installing the "Tribute in Light" at the Fresh Kills landfill this holiday season, despite requests by relatives of Sept. 11 victims.

Citing costs, estimated at up to $10,000 a day, Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said yesterday the mayor does not intend to ask designers to re-install the mile-high columns of light at the landfill, which contains ashes of the victims mingled with debris from the collapsed site.

"Who would pay for it?" he asked.

Skyler said last year's temporary tribute was funded and created by the Municipal Art Society. The installation can't be mounted at Fresh Kills without permission from the city, which owns the landfill. But Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid Island) said he understood that the mayor had promised some victims' relatives that the "Tribute in Light" would not be re-installed.

Oddo, who met with Bloomberg aides yesterday, said City Hall is committed to putting some kind of temporary memorial at Fresh Kills instead of the towers.

"It has to be done soon," he said, adding: "I don't want to pit one family member against another family member. I thought the towers of light were universally loved."

The idea of a tribute at the former dump had created an uncomfortable divide between some victims' relatives. Some families, particularly in New Jersey, oppose any effort to view the former dump as a burial ground for their loved ones.

But Dennis McKeon, an advocate for Island victims' families, made the memorial request in September, hoping the popular tribute would provide comfort in a painful time of year.

"I think it's a terrible decision," said McKeon when he learned of the mayor's stance yesterday. The mayor, he said, "is influenced by too limited an amount of people in regards to things of this nature."

McKeon said he had already received interest from corporations who could sponsor the twin beams of light to shine from the top of the 1/9 section of the landfill, where he thought they would be visible all over the tri-state area. The temporary memorial would have run from the first day of Chanukah until Christmas Day.

Receiving no response to his request, McKeon turned to Staten Island's three Council members, who requested the memorial in a letter to Bloomberg last week.

But relatives who want the victims' ashes moved from the landfill to Ground Zero object to any effort that would cause Fresh Kills to be viewed as the final resting place. "Staten Island has perfect right to have holiday tribute at some place," said Diane Horning, of Scotch Plains, N.J., who lost a son on Sept. 11.

If the city planned a holiday memorial at Ground Zero, Ms. Horning said she wouldn't object to one at Fresh Kills. But as she watches officials discuss plans for rebuilding office towers at Ground Zero, Ms. Horning worries they're "just are erasing what happened there and conveniently leaving my son and the people with whom he died in a dump.

"I have this feeling that if we put the 'Tribute in Lights' there, Manhattan will not feel compelled to do something," she added. "Then it will become a replacement."

Skyler, Bloomberg's spokesman, wouldn't say whether the mayor's decision was influenced by such sentiments. Island Council members said yesterday they will continue to press the mayor to agree to the memorial, and Oddo said he will meet with Bloomberg Tuesday to make one last pitch. All three Council members said they were hopeful that the money could be raised privately.

Heidi Singer covers City Hall for the Staten Island Advance. She may be reached at singer@siadvance.com.


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