Port Authority to Put 'Sphere' in Liberty Park, Across from Memorial

In 2011 the Port Authority commissioned renderings (not made public) of the Sphere in various locations in Liberty Park. This rendering is a view of the Sphere as it would look from the Memorial Plaza. Rendering: Port Authority 

Jul. 22, 2016

After more than 14 years, the Port Authority officially ended the exile of an iconic remnant and reminder of the 9/11 attacks.

“Commissioners, today I recommend that we bring the Sphere home, back to the World Trade site,” the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye, told the board members on Thursday before their unanimous approval to install Fritz Koenig’s Sphere at the newly opened Liberty Park, overlooking the Sept. 11 Memorial plaza. Since March, 2002, the battered, 25-ton sculpture, a symbol of the city’s resiliency after the attacks, has been on view at The Battery.

As expected, the authority chose the elevated park for the 25-ton sculpture, rather than the Memorial plaza, closer to where it stood as a centerpiece on the Twin Towers’ Austin J. Tobin Plaza.

Foye cited his reasons, including the “potential of impacting the architecturally consistent design of the Memorial plaza,” and the opposition of the Memorial’s outgoing president, Joe Daniels.

“They have a right to make curatorial decisions,” Foye said. “We do not have the power to force the Sphere to be located in the museum or on the plaza.”

Foye said that Port Authority engineers had yet to determine where in the park, located atop the Vehicle Security Center, the Sphere will be placed.

Before the commissioners took their vote, the public commented on the plan—mostly in opposition.

Kathleen Moore and Mary Perillo, longtime residents of 125 Cedar Street, the closest residential building to Liberty Park, each praised the new park and warned that it would be marred by the Sphere.

“You take in those 50-, 60-, 80-size groups of tourists to look at the Sphere? Bad idea,” Perillo said. “It changes the function of the place. It changes the atmosphere of the place, and it extends the Memorial to the one place that still feels like home, and not the on-ramp to DisneyWorld.”

“Please, leave us with our park, with our bit of tranquility, peace, and joy in the aftermath of all that we’ve been through over the years,” Moore said.

“Tour groups will defeat the design, plan and functionality of Liberty Park,” said Tammy Meltzer, a Battery Park City resident and Community Board 1 member, who also argued that the park’s safety would be compromised by the sculpture.

Margaret Donovan, a member of The Twin Towers Alliance, a group originally formed to advocate for the rebuilding of the two towers, said the Sphere’s eternal flame should “mark the spot where thousands of innocent people breathed their last and hundreds of heroes gave their lives. They didn’t die across the street.”

In a surprise reversal, Michael Burke, the most vocal and persistent proponent over many years for bringing the Sphere to the Memorial, told the commissioners that he now supported Liberty Park as its site. As recently as May, he said at a Community Board 1 committee that “Liberty Park should be left for Downtowners and the Memorial Plaza is where any and all 9/11 material belongs.” Since then, he said, the disrespectful behavior around the Memorial has led him to rethink his position. “Liberty Park provides a quiet place, quieter than the hustle and bustle of the Pokemon Go atmosphere of the Memorial,” he said.

“I think it can provide a place of peace and reflection,” Burke added, “which the Memorial has failed to do.”