Work began Monday to prepare High Rock Park for “Tempered by Memory,” the 9/11 memorial sculpture made from World Trade Center steel.
The large piece should be ready for its public debut — and the site landscaped with boulders and walkways — in three months, on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, officials said.
Those officials praised the site on High Rock Avenue, a few blocks north of the city’s downtown. It was selected after the piece outgrew the original site, and other spots provoked opposition.
“The issues and challenges of the past have been resolved. This is a wonderful site,” said Mayor Scott Johnson.
In High Rock Park, the 25-foot-tall sculpture will sit in front of dramatic rock ledges, part of a natural rock fault that runs through the city.
More than 100 people attended a ceremonial groundbreaking held at the site Monday morning. The sculpture should be installed in July, and the finished project, with landscaping, is expected to be ready for dedication on Sept. 11, said Joel Reed, executive director of Saratoga Arts.
Saratoga Arts, a nonprofit arts organization, has sponsored the sculpture since the idea of a local memorial made from WTC remains was first proposed more than two years ago.
“The setting will really add to the quiet, contemplative power of the piece,” Reed said.
The City Council approved the location last December, after a controversy that stretched over several months.
The sculpture, made from twisted steel recovered from the collapsed trade center ruins, was originally going to go on display on Broadway in front of the City Center, but it grew too large for that location.
A proposal for the city Visitor Center drew criticism that it would overshadow that historic building, and Johnson appointed a 13-member citizen committee to select a site. That committee looked at a variety of locations and recommended the site in High Rock Park, a few hundred feet north of the farmers market pavilions.
“It’s a raw site, very compatible with the sculpture,” said former Mayor A.C. Riley, who was on the selection committee. “It’s a very powerful piece, when you’re in its presence.”
The sculpture was created by Gansevoort artists John Van Alstine and Noah Savett, who were selected by Saratoga Arts.
“The site is perfect. We’re very, very happy with it,” said Van Alstine. “I don’t think there’s a better site in town. The setting will really add to the contemplative power of the piece.”
Savett said the heat-damaged girders were emotionally powerful, even in their raw form. The steel was selected during a visit to a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport that contained thousands of pieces.
“It was stunning to see,” Savett said.
Johnson praised the location for the natural backdrop it will provide, and because in the park the sculpture won’t have to compete with other things for people’s attention.
He said the sculpture is forward-looking, as well as being a memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It means the inspiration of the American people overcoming adversity,” Johnson said.
Planning for the project began in the spring of 2010, when the local Naval Support Unit came to Saratoga Arts with the idea, and offered the organization the opportunity to acquire steel ruins from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Local architect Tom Frost and landscape architect Michael Ingersoll of the LA Group developed a site plan that includes a low stone wall around the sculpture, boulders along a portion of the site and crushed stone walkways connecting the memorial to two mineral springs in the park.
The architects, like many other professionals, are donating their services. Saratoga Arts said that of the original $196,000 budget, about $119,000 has been contributed in in-kind service donations.