By Benyamin Davidsons
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated six-month long closure—but this didn’t stop its top executives from cashing out on big bonuses.
As reported by the NY Post, the 9/11 museum in New York City’s Financial District laid off or furloughed 60 percent of its employees after the pandemic which left it in a financial bind. Still, the memorial, gave $1,000 bonuses to each of its 12 highest paid execs in 2020. The museum’s CEO Alice Greenwald also received a bonus, which brought her total compensation for 2020 to $564,500, as per the organization’s latest IRS filing. Besides for Greenwald, who recently announced that she will be stepping down from her position.
The 11 other top staffers, who received $1000 bonuses, had total salaries ranging between $187,000 to $347,000 in 2020. The rest of the 155 employees were also paid unspecified bonuses “based on duration of employment,” said the museum’s spokeswoman Lee Cochran. Cochran defended the organization saying the bonuses were funded by an anonymous donor for that specific purpose. “The donation was intended to recognize the exceptional dedication of a very hard-working staff” who ran and produced virtual education programs during the pandemic-led closure, Cochran said.
Opened in 2011 to commemorate the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and to honor the 2,958 people tragically murdered, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, is still struggling financially due to a continuous drop in tourism and social distancing concerns. As per the Post, in 2019, before the pandemic, revenue from ticket sales and tours were at $74.7 million. In 2020 they dropped to just $11.2 million, and in 2021, after the reopening revenue was still at just $18.9 million, Cochran said. The museum is now begging for taxpayer funds, and has been lobbying for a bill asking the US Department of Homeland Security to award it a one-time grant of $5 million to $10 million to cover expenses.
In the face of such financial difficulties, the bonuses have drawn criticism and particularly raised the ire of advocacy group, 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and World Trade Center Victims. The group says the museum should rather be run by the National Park Service. “This is a cash cow for the executives running the museum. Their salaries are exorbitant,” said retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches, the group’s chairman, whose son firefighter Jimmy Riches died on 9/11. “It was built to honor the victims and tell the story of 9/11. They’re making money off the blood of my son. It’s a disgrace.”