It Pays Well To Pay Tribute to 9/11 Victims

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January 23, 2011; Source: New York Post | In another case of the country's occasional misplaced priorities, contrast this story in the New York Post about the rich salaries of the people who run the nonprofit National September 11 Memorial & Museum with the long and messy public fight to get workers at the World Trade Center compensation for health-related complications resulting from their rescue work on September 11, 2001.

The Post reports that tax records show that some "11 staffers at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum each pulled down more than $170,000 in total compensation in 2009." The paper adds, "Four execs took home more than $320,000." The foundation's president, Joseph Daniels, is singled out for a string of hefty raises that boosted his salary over three years to $371,307 in 2009. Money for salaries – and the $610 million overall cost of the project – has come both from private donations and tax funds from the state and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

While cash has been flowing freely to the nonprofit executives whose jobs are to honor the memories of the 9/11 victims, it was only last December, after years of opposition, mostly from Republicans, that Congress finally approved $1.8 billion over five years to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers from exposure to toxic dust and debris at ground zero. The legislation also sets aside $2.5 billion for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which will provide payment for job and economic losses over five years.

Apparently there's no shame or embarrassment over the Post's disclosures about the outsized salaries for top executives. Memorial & Museum Board member Tom Roger, who lost his daughter on 9/11, told the Post, "We're setting up a venue that will be the highest drawing venue in New York City. You don't bring in your typical, well-meaning nonprofit person off the street to get that done."

That may be, but as the Post article also points out, the memorial's unveiling this September on the 10th anniversary of the attack will be two years late, as will be the opening of the museum in 2012.—Bruce Trachtenberg