Tribute Park to Host 9/11 Ceremony Despite Ongoing Renovations

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What happened on September 11, 2001, will never be forgotten, and those who oversee Tribute Park are making sure of that, by opening the park that is undergoing renovations, for its annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.

Following last year’s September 11 ceremony, the Friends of Tribute Park announced that the Beach 116th Street bayside memorial park would be closed for as long as two years to undergo major renovations due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and other storms. However, with the 18th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, ceremony organizers and the NYC Parks Department are doing everything they can to ensure the park is open so the annual memorial ceremony can continue to take place there.

On Wednesday, September 11, at 8:30 a.m., all are encouraged to head to Tribute Park to remember those who died, especially locals, who perished on September 11, 2001. The ceremony will include the reading of the names of the locals who died that day while residents lay roses on the central compass at the park, which points to the site of the World Trade Center. There will also be music, with vocals by Chazmond Peacock and Steven Wagner, and music by Aerial Acoustics, which includes Dorothy Wagner and Dennis Smith.

Tribute Park is still undergoing renovations, and the park will continue to be closed following the ceremony, but everyone is working together to ensure it is open in some form for the event. “We met with the Rockaway Parks Administrator, Eric Peterson, and the contractor, and they are making accommodations to have the ceremony at the park that day,” Kevin O’Mealy, treasurer for Friends of Tribute Park, said.

Some of the elements that have been boxed off during renovations, like the central mosaic and Firemen’s Rock, will be uncovered for the ceremony. The tiles of the park had been removed and stored safely while renovations are taking place, so plywood or another material will be placed along the dirt paths of the park for people to safely walk on. The Parks Department is also bringing in potted plants to spruce up the park that normally has plenty of greenery and flowers under regular circumstances. The contactors will also remove much of their equipment out of the park for the day.

O’Mealy hopes to spread the word that the park will be open for the ceremony, even though it has been closed for almost a year. “We hope to have a good turnout. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be open as of late, and traffic has been a mess due to construction in the area recently, but we will be open that day and we’ll figure things out as we go along,” O’Mealy said.

The organizers did consider other locations for this year’s ceremony, but at the end of the day, holding the ceremony at the place that is dedicated to remembering those who died on 9/11, was ideal. “We’re going to do the best we can because it’s all in the spirit of 9/11. It is important for the community to continue to have this ceremony in the park because people have an affinity for it. It gets a lot of use, not just on 9/11, with people going there to reflect, especially those who have lost loved ones under any circumstance. It’s a really nice setting and we want to let people know that it’s still there and it’s going to be restored very nicely. Because of the significance to the community that the park has, we really wanted to make sure we had it there,” O’Mealy said.

Renovations on Tribute Park are expected to be complete before next year’s 9/11 ceremony. The renovations began on the park almost immediately after September 11 last year and requires a two-year process because there is much to be done after years of damage related to Hurricane Sandy. “All of the infrastructure had to be replaced after Sandy. One of the big things was the sea wall had to be rebuilt, and in the spirit of resilience, they put in these massive boulders to build a seawall which had started to erode from the original wall from when the park first opened. They also needed to replace the irrigation system, which had been destroyed. They’re also doing a lot of electric work and putting up a new front gate. It’s very extensive work that has to be done and Parks was waiting on FEMA money to do it, which is why it just started last year,” O’Mealy said. “It’s taking a while, but I think it’s going to come back better than ever. The lighting will be improved, the sprinklers will be working again, and everything will be put back the way it was before. It’s going to be much improved and well worth the wait, we hope.”

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