Now that the National 9/11 Memorial as well as the commercially enterprising and decidedly controversial museum are both open to the public, the lower Manhattan site has become a place for locals and visitors alike to visit, reflect, photograph and ponder. It's also a place to kick back, have a smoke, and eat lunch.
Yesterday, NY Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman wrote about "unwanted activities" at the memorial plaza:
Proud workers in blue vests tend to visitors who have questions and keep an eye out for unwanted activities, of which there are many. The memorial permits no recreation, no loud noise, no “behaving in a way that is inappropriate,” according to the memorial’s online rules list. You can’t sing. At a site celebrating freedom and liberty, protests and demonstrations are prohibited.
I asked one worker whether people can eat or sunbathe and received a look akin to what an airline passenger in coach earns when venturing into business class for extra peanuts. The worker volunteered that a visitor may bring a snack or sandwich to the memorial but must dispose of the trash off site. There are no garbage receptacles — no vendors, either, and retail is forbidden in the adjacent towers that face the memorial site.
During a visit yesterday, we saw families enjoying fast food from McDonald's and school kids eating their brown-bagged lunches. Soda cups were set on the pools' railings (where the names of the dead are carved) so that hands could be made free to snap photos. Cigarettes were smoked and at least one butt was left behind.
No one was asked to stop.