By Renée Kiriluk-Hill Hunterdon Democrat
LAMBERTVILLE — The city is pulling funding of a new 9/11 memorial planned to include a piece of the steel from the World Trade Center and the ashes of search-and-rescue dogs who worked Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks.
That’s the word from Mayor David DelVecchio, who said today, April 9, that the memorial isn’t meant to be divisive.
“There’s public opposition at that location, so I suggested that the people involved in it go back to the drawing board,” the mayor said. “We moved the police station about six times before we settled on a site.”
The new memorial was first proposed for the public space at the corner of Bridge and North Union streets, at the edge of the Wachovia Bank lot.
Some residents at a council meeting in October took issue with that busy, noisy location. Some think that such a memorial belongs in a more secluded and private place — the better to reflect upon the events of that day and the impact it has since had on countless families.
Resident Paul DeBenedetto said he preferred keeping taxpayer-funded memorials in check, opining that memorials tend to be redundant, ignored and eventually defaced.
Plans were re-drawn for a memorial at the normally quiet Mary Sheridan park, the site of a Civil War monument, large gazebo and green spaces. A friends group that has paid for some improvements at the pocket park on York Street was consulted, officials said.
But members came out against it after the city introduced an ordinance last month to spend $50,000 on the new memorial, and another $10,000 to repair and seal the Civil War monument.
Resident Maryann Ranson sent an email to the mayor and council on April 2, on behalf of the Friends of the Park and Pave the Way, stating, “It is our feeling, along with many residents we spoke to, that memorials should be funded by donations and/or fund raising events, and not from the taxpayers.”
She said they didn’t think that the 9/11 memorial planned “was appropriate for a Civil War Park with a Victorian theme. It would have compromised the integrity of the park, and its size would have covered much needed area for events in the Park throughout the year.”
The funding ordinance is up for a public hearing and final vote on Tuesday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at the Justice Center. The money’s not tied to the Mary Sheridan park, or any other location, but the mayor said that the ordinance is now likely to be defeated.
He said he doesn’t know “what a good location is” for the memorial. Some are now suggesting city-owned land behind the CVS Pharmacy, on North Union and Cherry Streets.
The city bought the .56-acre site in 2011 from a developer who was proposing raised townhouses on the land, which is in a floodplain.
Residents who had started a community garden at the city park Ely Field said they were interested in a larger garden on this new open space, but that was never moved. Others mentioned the possibility of a dog park, but the land remains vacant.
“The community will ultimately come together — this sounds like a cop-out, but it is not — on what a good spot is for this monument,” DelVecchio said.
City architect Micheal [sic] Burns volunteered to design a memorial incorporating a piece of I-beam from the World Trade Center. He has worked with other residents on the memorial, which would also include the ashes of two emergency responders who arrived at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, and stayed for 10 days: search-and-rescue dogs Sarge and Nutmeg.
Sarge found the body of a firefighter and Nutmeg recovered body parts. The dogs worked with city residents and volunteer responders Spring and Pat Pittore.
They were among the first search-and-rescue dogs on the scene and were inducted earlier in the New Jersey Veterinary Foundation’s Animal Hall of Fame.
Mr. Pittore said earlier in the process that the Lambertville-New Hope rescue squad, of which is is a longtime member, would also hold fundraisers to help pay for the memorial.