Jury for Sept. 11 Memorial Is Facing Spirited Lobbying

An intense lobbying effort is under way, both in public and behind the scenes, to influence the jury that will choose the design for a memorial at the World Trade Center site.

A group of family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attack that serves as an advisory council to rebuilding officials met with the jury this week. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has been promised a similar private session, according to two rebuilding officials, who said that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. George E. Pataki and board members of the lead rebuilding agency will also be offered meetings with the jury.

Publicly, firefighters, downtown residents and business leaders have begun to push to have their desires represented in the memorial. Their wish lists encompass issues as diverse as easy pedestrian access across the site and specific recognition in the memorial for uniformed rescue workers.

Even two directors of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the lead rebuilding agency, have begun lobbying the jury to do away with one central aspect of the overall site design made by the architect Daniel Libeskind, the sunken pit, bounded by the trade center's foundation walls, that is to serve as the setting for the memorial.

All these efforts are taking place just as the memorial competition begins, at least a month before the 13-member jury starts to review any designs. But the lobbying also comes barely a month after officials overseeing the memorial pledged to try to keep the process clear of the political pressures that shaped the selection of the Libeskind site design.

It is not uncommon for members of a jury in a design competition to hear from interested groups, particularly in a situation as laden with emotion as a terrorist bombing.

Edward T. Linenthal, a professor of religion and American culture at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, who has studied and written about memorials, said yesterday that the jury for the Oklahoma City National Memorial received significant guidance from family members of victims and from survivors of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. "I don't think it politicized it at all," he said.

Yet Mr. Pataki's influence over the selection of Mr. Libeskind is still fresh in the minds of many people who have followed the rebuilding. Mr. Pataki pushed for Mr. Libeskind over the other finalist, the Think team, even though Think was favored by a committee of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's board.

Kevin Rampe, interim president of the development corporation, said he believed that the jury would be independent in its assessments of the designs in the competition. He added that a conscious effort was made to conduct all the meetings between constituent groups and the jury before design submissions begin to be accepted on June 9. The end of the submission period is June 30; a design is to be chosen in October.

Matthew Higgins, chief operating officer at the development corporation, said the guidelines laid out by the agency for the competition were flexible enough to encompass a variety of approaches and technologies. Therefore, he said, officials do not want the jury to feel bound by what has been done at other memorials.

Members of the jury, too, have made clear that they intend to consider every submission, even those that do not strictly comply with the official guidelines for the placement and content of the memorial.

That has led some interest groups to become more vocal in their calls for attention. Two development corporation board members, Carl Weisbrod and Madelyn Wils, have been pushing for some accommodation to Mr. Libeskind's design for the site to allow residents and downtown workers to easily cross the memorial site.

At a public hearing before jury members on Wednesday night, Mr. Weisbrod, who is president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, a business group, asked the jury to consider memorial designs that place the memorial at ground level, rather than 30 feet below ground, as Mr. Libeskind has designed it.

Those calls are expected to be repeated on Thursday, when advisory councils of downtown residents and others meet with the jury.

Also at the public hearing, jury members heard repeated, forceful calls from firefighters and their supporters for separate recognition on the memorial of uniformed rescue workers who died at the trade center. Previously, a committee that drafted the memorial "mission statement" agreed that it wanted all the lives lost to be honored equally.

Several family members of victims who met with the jury on Tuesday addressed that issue, with some urging that the memorial note affiliations with the Fire or Police Department and others urging that jury members look at the mission statement for guidance on the decision.

Many family members and some jury members became quite emotional during the meeting, according to two people who attended, as many family members told about their relatives who were killed.