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9/11 museum work grinds to halt as money dispute delays opening

Work on a planned museum at the World Trade Center site has ground to a halt because of a financial dispute, meaning that it won't open on time next year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday.

The underground museum commemorating victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was scheduled to open in September on the 11th anniversary of the tragedy, a year after the opening of a memorial at the site that has already drawn 1 million visitors.

But in recent months, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation has been fighting with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over who is responsible for paying millions of dollars in infrastructure costs related to the project.

The Port Authority, which owned the trade center and is building the museum at ground zero, contends that the foundation owes it $300 million. The foundation says the authority owes it $140 million because of delays in the project.

The dispute has been simmering for a while, and some details of the work slowdown were reported in November, but Thursday marked the first time the mayor and other officials acknowledged that the museum will not open in 2012.

"There is no chance of it being open on time. Work has basically stopped," Bloomberg said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on a recent radio program that the Port Authority was "on the verge" of suing the foundation, but both the mayor and the Port Authority said Thursday that negotiations over the matter continue.

"I'm sure we are going to work something out with the Port Authority," Bloomberg said. "They've got a difficult budget situation. I'm sympathetic to that."

Despite security hurdles and continuing construction, tourists from around the world have already made the memorial at the site a regular stop on their visits to New York City. Since it opened to the public Sept. 12, the site now draws about 10,000 visitors a day.

Two towers and the transit hub are under construction. Thursday, the memorial foundation set up a board of directors for the planned performing arts center. The board includes site developer Larry Silverstein, Disney executive Zenia Mucha and Brookfield Properties co-chairman John Zuccotti.

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