By Corky Siemaszko New York Daily News
The Board of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum voted last week to charge admission to the museum, with the dollar amount expected to be $20-$25, upsetting some victims’ family members.
The museum in the crucible of America’s pain will be charging admission.
People making the pilgrimage to Ground Zero will have to pony up anywhere from $20 to $25 to descend into the new subterranean museum when it finally opens next year.
And, unlike some other museums in the city, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero will charge a mandatory fee — not just a suggested donation — for the privilege.
“We’re still in the process of considering how much, but it will be in the range of $20 to $25,” Anthony Guido, a spokesman for the museum said Friday. “It will be a set fee.”
Entrance to the memorial itself — which includes the picturesque reflection pools marking the footprints of the twin towers — will continue to be free, though a $2 service fee for online reservations was recently put in place.
But word of the planned museum entrance fee outraged some relatives of the roughly 3,000 people slain on 9/11.
“It’s ridiculous,” said retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, who lost his firefighter son Jimmy. “We asked for a memorial and they’ve turned this into a P.T. Barnum production. These people are trying to make money off the worst day in American history.”
Eileen Torres, whose firefighter cousin Manuel Del Valle Jr., also perished on that unforgettable day, called the move “absolutely disrespectful.”
“We were really hoping it wouldn’t come to that,” said Torres, who lives in Dutchess County. “From the beginning, they’ve been treating this like a business. It’s not a business — it’s a memorial.”
Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 relative who took part in planning the museum, said “the idea of charging admission is not something we ever wanted to do.”
“I don’t think people realize the enormous costs of building something like this, in a location like this,” said Burlingame, a Westchester County resident whose brother, Charles, was a pilot on the hijacked plane that hit the Pentagon. “At the end of the day we have to get the money from somewhere.”
Michael Frazier, another spokesman for the memorial, also defended the decision to charge admission.
“As a nonprofit organization that relies on the support of the public, not city, state or federal funding for our operations, we are charging an admission fee in line with other comparable institutions,” he said.
“Also, like other institutions, there will be discounts and fee exclusions. In our case, 9/11 family members won’t pay. And we will have time dedicated for the public to enter for free.”
Over the years, the foundation that runs the site has gotten more than $425 million from the state and federal governments, and the Port Authority. It has also raised more than $450 million in private donations.
The price tag for the museum itself is expected to run around $700 million once it is completed, officials said. And the projected operational costs for both the memorial and museum are pegged at $60 million per year.
Some 2.5 million people are expected to visit the museum when it opens next April. And charging $25 per head would more than cover the operational costs.
Frazier said the foundation is not relying solely on the museum’s gate to pay the bills. “Like other nonprofits, we will continue to privately fundraise,” he said.
It also helps to have a billionaire like Mayor Bloomberg as chairman of the foundation. Recently, Hizzoner loaned it $15 million to help cover a budget shortfall, officials confirmed.
Memorial officials began floating the idea of a museum admission fee last year.
At the time, Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said the operation would need to “generate revenue in line with other world-class institutions in New York City.”
Then last week, the board quietly approved a motion to charge admission to the museum.
New Yorkers not directly touched by the tragedy turned thumbs down on that plan.
“It’s not fair at all,” said Joseph Shi, 19, of Flushing, Queens. “It’s not like a normal museum. It’s different.”
With Ryan Sit