The 9/11 Memorial Museum opens May 21

A section of the

A section of the "slurry wall," the surviving retaining wall of the original World Trade Center, is displayed during the opening ceremony for National September 11 Memorial & Museum on May 15, 2014. (Credit: Getty Images / Pool)

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Community leaders, developers and experts described the long process of rebuilding the World Trade Center site at a symposium Tuesday in anticipation of the May 21 opening of the long-awaited 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Speaking at 7 World Trade Center the panel reflected on the more than 12 years off planning and said that everyone was attentive to the needs of all of the groups invested in the neighborhood, such as 9/11 victims' families, businesses and residents.

"The place we are building is a product of different competing agendas of what to do with New York City," said Janno Lieber, of Silverstein Properties, which is building the four towers on the site. "Somehow we came up with an idea that reflects a lot of different agendas."

The panel was preceded a screening of the documentary "16 Acres" which detailed the struggles of rebuilding the site including the large amount of criticism from victims' families who said it should be treated as hallowed ground.

Lieber said he and his team listened to the concerns of 9/11 families, who will be allowed into the museum for a free preview starting Thursday, and at the same time moved forward to make sure that the neighborhood regained its standing as a commercial powerhouse.

Two buildings, 2 and 3 World Trade Center, are still under construction and years away from opening, and Silverstein hasn't secured a loan for 3 World Trade Center's $2.8 billion cost.

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Lieber said those leasing and finance issues will play themselves out and noted that 7 World Trade Center, which is home to his firm and the Port Authority, filled up with tenants quickly after it was completed.

Once tower 3's construction commences he said the site will be "a very finished place."

In the meantime, the area has seen a great uptick in residents, visitors and business and the panel said tomorrow's museum opening will keep the spotlight on the site.


Panelist Philip Nobel, an architecture critic, said not only will visitors experience the history of the World Trade Center, but they'll also enjoy the all-new environment. The fence surrounding the memorial plaza will be taken down and the public will have free access.

"All bets are off until they take down that perimeter fence," he said.

Catherine McVeigh Hughes, the chair of Manhattan's Communuity Board 1, added the completion of the Fulton Street subway hub and Path Station next year will also create a new hot spot for residents and visitors alike.

The transit hubs will include new retail and will space for outdoor events.

"We're really looking forward to that," the McVeigh Hughes said said.

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McVeigh Hughes predicted that site's construction will pick up soon and any qualms people had about the drawn-out development will be alleviated when they see the final product.

"You don't look at the building and think about [the problems], you look at all the processes it took to get there," she said.

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