The reflective pool at The National September 11 Memorial Museum is seen on September 7, 2012 in New York City. / Spencer Platt/Getty Images
(CBS News) NEW YORK - The nearly year-long impasse over construction of the National September 11 Museum at the World Trade Center site ended on the eve of Tuesday's 11th anniversary of the attacks, but perhaps too late for the museum to be ready for next year's 12th anniversary of al Qaeda's terrorist attack on America.
The deal announced by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, means construction will resume in the coming weeks after an 11 month standstill. However, it did not specify a completion date, and no one is yet committing to the museum opening by September 11, 2013.
"This agreement ensures that it will be restarted very soon and will not stop until the museum is completed," Bloomberg said.
Museum organizers have collected almost 40,000 artifacts, from crushed firetrucks and airplane parts to personal mementos of the victims, as well as photographs of almost all of 2,982 people whose names are etched in bronze around the 9/11 memorial pools.
Cuomo and Christie have statutory control over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a toll collecting transportation agency which owns the 16 acre trade center site and is overseeing construction of the museum, a new train station, and an office tower projected to reach 1,776 feet. Bloomberg happens to chair the board of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a privately-run non-profit foundation which had already raised $450 million to build the eight acre memorial plaza and the 100,000-square-foot museum that will lie mostly beneath the memorial.
"The museum will be a place for education and inspiration," said foundation president Joe Daniels today. "It will commemorate the lives lost, preserve the history of what happened that terrible day, and tell the stories of courage and compassion that were so much a part of the response to 9/11."
Like everything else rebuilt at Ground Zero, where the 110-story Twin Towers and five other buildings once stood, construction of the museum has been years behind schedule. Originally expected to open in 2009, the museum was placed on the back burner so the memorial could be completed by the 10th anniversary, as it was last year.
The memorial designed by Israeli-American architect Michael Arad, who beat out 5,200 contestants in an international competition in 2003, features a pair of one-acre-square pools with cascading waterfalls and the names of those killed after hijackers crashed passenger jets into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon in northern Virginia, and into a field in Shanksville, Pa. An uprising by passengers and crew informed about the first three planes thwarted plans by the fourth set of hijackers targeting the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. The memorial pools, which rise out of the "footprints" of the old towers, also acknowledge the six people killed in the Islamic terrorist truck bombing of the trade center in 1993.
The deal to resume 9/11 Museum construction requires the memorial and museum foundation to pay the Port Authority at least $12 million to finish the job, which is a fraction of the parties' pre-existing $530 million construction contract.
The foundation further agreed to pay the Port Authority up to $1 million a year for 30 years starting in 2018 from any operating profits, if there are any. The foundation's projected operating budget is $60 million per year. There is currently no admission charge to visit the memorial, which saw 4.6 million visitors in its first year. While timed tickets to the memorial are required, admission is free, and foundation officials stress it always will be. However, the foundation is contemplating either a request for a voluntary, suggested donation or a ticket price for the museum to offset operating costs.
The foundation will also grant the Port Authority some financial oversight over its affairs, by seating a representative on its Board of Directors and finance committee, and requiring their financial officers to meet quarterly. The foundation will be required to maintain at least six months of operating expenses in its working capital fund and keep six months of utility expenses on deposit with the Port Authority.
"Today's agreement puts in place a critical and long overdue safeguard," Cuomo said, adding that it "put the project on the path for completion."
In addition, the foundation and Port Authority will jointly seek federal government funding for the future operations of the memorial and museum, according to their agreement.
"The delays were understandably frustrating for many, particularly the families, friends and loved ones of all the 9/11 victims," Christie said. "We will now move this project forward with conviction but also with proper transparency and oversight."