By Susan Edelman and Cynthia R. Fagen New York Post
A photographer who got rare access to Ground Zero after 9/11 is now selling $27.50 tickets to his Meatpacking District museum, but has given a pittance to charities he promised would benefit.
Gary Suson was allowed to take poignant photos of firefighters carrying fallen comrades from the Pit and other intimate shots.
For months, he roamed the disaster site, also taking many remnants. He displays a PATH station clock frozen in time, a twisted piece of fuselage from American Airlines Flight 11, rare chunks of World Trade Center window glass, eyeglass frames in a case, a burnt cellphone, a doll, a woman’s dusty shoe, and a “golf ball that sat on the desk of a stockbroker at Cantor Fitzgerald,” he tells visitors in an audio tour.
Two former FDNY chiefs whose sons were killed on 9/11 are furious.
“It’s just appalling that people think they can make money off the pain and suffering of the surviving family members,” said Al Santoro [sic – Santora], a retired deputy chief who lost Firefighter son Christopher, 23, of Engine 54. “It’s just deplorable.”
Former Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose son Jimmy, 29, of Engine 4, was killed, called the admission fees “a disgrace.”
“He wasn’t given special permission to remove what he wanted from the site,” Riches said of Suson. “No one was.”
The price of tickets to Suson’s “Ground Zero Museum Workshop,” in a one-room loft on West 14th Street, has risen from $15 to $25 for adults, plus a $2.50 processing fee. Admission for kids 4-12: $21.50.
The museum also sells Suson’s coffee-table book of 9/11 images for $49 each, $15 posters of his photos, $6 and $10 prints, and $3 “Never Forget” rubber bracelets.
When Suson opened the nonprofit museum in 2005, he said 9/11 charities would get “the proceeds.” But charities have received a tiny percentage of the revenues, records show.
In 2008, the first year he filed tax returns, the museum pulled in $125,341, he reported. But it gave just $800 to five listed charities, or less than 1 percent of revenue.
In 2009, he reported giving $6,840 to charity, or 3.2 percent of $209,771 in revenue. In 2010, he reported giving $15,500 to unnamed charities, 5.9 percent of $262,244 in sales of tickets and souvenirs.
Suson, 46, listed his salary as $11,600, and his wife, Sherry, is listed as an unpaid vice president, in 2010, the last return on record. The museum paid Suson and other employees a total $59,169 in wages and benefits that year.
One charity touted on his Web site, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, said it never got a dime from Suson or the museum. A sign at the museum’s entrance Thursday listed “recent” donations, but two charities it named said they had not gotten anything since 2011.
Tuesday’s Children, a charity for 9/11 orphans, said it received one donation — $750 in 2011. A scholarship fund in honor of 9/11 firefighter Raymond Downey said it received $1,465 from 2009-2011.
Suson did not return calls.
Suson, who bills himself as the “Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association,” was warned by the union years ago to stop claiming that title.
Suson has previously claimed he retrieved items from a Dumpster at the edge of Ground Zero. In his taped tour, he says “artifacts were being thrown away … I asked permission of fire officers if I could salvage them. Luckily, they said yes.” He said recovery workers gave him tools, masks, and pieces of WTC steel beams.
Law-enforcement sources said no one had permission to take anything, even from Dumpsters, because Ground Zero was a “crime scene.”
Joe Soldevere, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Design and Construction, which was in charge of the WTC recovery, said Friday it did not “authorize anyone to take WTC artifacts.”