NEW YORK -- The head of the foundation building the Sept. 11 memorial told supporters Tuesday it's "essential" to open the memorial by the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, disputing a report that the project couldn't be finished on time. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's executive director, Chris Ward, announced Monday that nearly every project under construction at the World Trade Center site is behind schedule and that the memorial would not be able to open by its target of Sept. 11, 2011.
On Tuesday, Ward said the public might have access to the cobblestone, tree-covered memorial plaza by the attacks' 10th anniversary, but construction would still need to continue after that.
Joe Daniels, president of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, sent a letter to supporters Tuesday, stating that despite the report, the foundation will advocate for the memorial to open by the 10th anniversary.
"While aggressive, we believe it is both possible and essential that the memorial be open to the public by the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks," Daniels wrote.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spearheaded fundraising for the memorial as chair of the foundation, said Tuesday he hoped the memorial could open sooner than predicted.
"I've pushed the Port Authority as much as I can," the mayor said. "I'm not so sure they aren't doing a good job. I think it's easy to go and criticize them. I'm just pointing out that they set the priorities."
The agency is building the memorial and a multibillion-dollar transit hub next to it, meaning delays in one project affects the other, agency officials said. The underground museum planned at the site borders concourses in the Port Authority commuter rail hub, and trees planned for the plaza would sit on top of part of the hub.
Ward also announced a major design change to the hub to trim millions of dollars from a budget that has ranged from $2.2 billion to $3.4 billion.
The wings on the dome designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava will no longer open and close along with its retractable roof, Ward said. Calatrava had designed the wings to give the building a sense of motion at times and designed a roof to open every Sept. 11 and shine light down into the transit hub's concourse.
Ward said the change would keep the hub from imposing on the office towers and memorial near it.
"This is a tough choice, but it is the right choice," he said.
Calatrava on Tuesday said he recommended the latest change.
"We strongly support the Port Authority's efforts to ensure that the World Trade Center transportation hub is built, and we are continuing to work collaboratively to find potential changes that will save time and money while preserving the integrity of the original design," he said in a statement.