September 24, 2005
Hillary Comes Out Against Freedom Center
by Deborah Orin
WASHINGTON—Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday dealt a crushing blow to the International Freedom Center planned for Ground Zero, saying she wants the project canned for failing to listen to the 9/11 families.
"I cannot support the IFC," Clinton declared last night in a strongly worded statement in response to an inquiry from The Post.
Her tough comments are Clinton's first significant remarks about the controversy raging at Ground Zero over the Freedom Center, which 9/11 families and other critics fear will become a center of anti-Americanism.
"While I want to ensure that development and rebuilding in lower Manhattan move forward expeditiously, I am troubled by the serious concerns family members and first responders have expressed to me," Clinton said.
"The LMDC [Lower Manhattan Development Corp.] has authority over the site and I do not believe we can move forward until it heeds and addresses their concerns."
The family members of victims, as well as unions representing the city's cops and firefighters, want nothing less than the Freedom Center being booted from Ground Zero.
Given her influence, Clinton's hard line could spell doom for the Freedom Center's hopes of remaining at the World Trade Center site.
Clinton spoke out the day after the IFC released a plan intended to save its spot at the site, but it was met with immediate opposition from 9/11 families.
Clinton won't support any plan unless the families and first responders back it, said her spokesman, Philippe Reines.
Many relatives of 9/11 victims denounced the Freedom Center plan as an insult to the 2,749 people who died at the Twin Towers because it would paint them as a little more than a footnote to the world's march toward freedom.
The families, cops and firefighters say the IFC's plan to use hallowed land at Ground Zero to highlight poverty as a barrier to freedom diminishes the tragedy of 9/11.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also voiced concern yesterday and called for a compromise although he didn't state flat-out opposition to the Freedom Center.
"There's got to be a way to meet the families' sincere and real needs and build a center that honors the freedom that the victims died for. We hope that the LMDC will find some common ground quickly," Schumer said.
Gov. Pataki who wields strong influence over the LMDC, which will soon decide the Freedom Center's fate is traveling abroad and has yet to take a stand on the Freedom Center's latest proposal. Pataki has said that he won't support any plan that offers a forum for anti-Americanism.
Clinton's opposition means that the anti-IFC push is now a bipartisan cause. Three New York Republicans Reps. John Sweeney (Saratoga), Peter King (L.I.) and Vito Fossella (S.I.) are already challenging it as a "blame America first" project.
Yesterday, the trio of Republicans formally requested a congressional oversight hearing as a step toward blocking the IFC from getting any of the $2.7 billion in federal funds allocated for Ground Zero.
"The whole thing was hijacked. If you asked people on the street what they wanted at Ground Zero, this would be the last thing that they wanted," Sweeney said.