Lower Manhattan arts groups — concerned, in part, that a Freedom Museum has been selected for the World Trade Center site without public debate — are calling for greater transparency in the competition for a cultural presence at ground zero.
The critics say that the proposed museum may divert money and resources from existing struggling downtown institutions.
"You've got the Statue of Liberty down there, Ellis Island, Fraunces Tavern, Federal Hall, the American Indian Museum — they're all about some aspect of freedom," said Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney and chairman of Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City.
"You're taking money out of other organizations and putting it into something that nobody knows anything about," he added. "The Statue of Liberty hasn't been reopened because of a lack of funds."
Last June, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation invited arts groups worldwide to submit proposals for a museum and a performing arts center planned for ground zero. Since September, the corporation — together with the city and state — has been evaluating the 113 responses.
It was expected to announce its selections in April, but the decision has been delayed, in part by the difficulty of finding a chairman of the foundation charged with raising $600 million for the cultural buildings and a memorial. The development corporation has asked the cultural applicants not to discuss the specifics of their proposals.
On Tuesday, Councilman Alan J. Gerson of Manhattan stood on the steps of City Hall along with representatives of 30 downtown arts groups to call for greater openness in the development corporation's decisionmaking and for $25 million in grants to help existing cultural insitutions downtown .