Families of people killed in the World Trade Center attack demanded Monday that officials redesign the memorial, saying the current plan is unsafe and disrespects victims by placing their names below street level.
Police and fire union leaders joined victims' families at ground zero to seek a new design, although construction on the "Reflecting Absence" memorial is set to begin in March.
"We're asking that the memorial see the light of day," Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, told about 150 people.
The design, chosen two years ago by a panel of artists, civic and cultural leaders, and one Sept. 11 family member, marks the outlines of the twin towers with reflecting pools surrounded by the names of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed.
A tree-lined memorial plaza is planned for above ground, but the museum to commemorate the 2001 terrorist attacks and part of the memorial where the names are listed will be as much as 70 feet below street level.
"It is all wrong in its symbolism," said Rosaleen Tallon, whose firefighter brother was killed at the trade center. "I look up to the sky to remember him. I will never go down."
Tallon also said the underground design was a "death trap" for tourists in case of a fire or a terrorist attack. Families have said there should be four main ramps in and out of the memorial instead of two.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is overseeing the design and appointed the 13-member panel that chose it, said the memorial and museum would have 15 exits, including emergency stairwells.
The company's spokesman, John Gallagher, said police, fire and security teams would make certain the memorial was built to safely accommodate the millions of visitors who are expected. "The memorial will be a magnificent tribute to those we lost," he added.
Gallagher also said the decision to list the names of the dead randomly around the two reflecting pools "remains our plan."
Emergency workers and family members have asked that the dead be listed according to the battalion or precinct they worked for or the tower they worked in.
"They must be recognized together," said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, who wants firefighters listed by their units, ranks and badge numbers.
Fundraising experts have said controversy over the memorial could hurt the effort to raise the $500 million needed to build and operate it. A private foundation has raised more than $100 million so far. The memorial is scheduled to open in 2009.