Kerry opposes design, site for World War II memorial A 'significant' structure is warranted, senator says

February 21, 1997|By Robert Gee | Robert Gee,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Kerrey has begun an effort to scuttle the proposed design and location of a World War II memorial on the National Mall, saying he favors a larger and far more grand monument, to be built on a site that would not obstruct the Mall's sweeping vistas.

Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat who is a decorated Vietnam War '' veteran, is the first leading public figure to express opposition to the plans that President Clinton unveiled last month.

In a statement yesterday, the senator made clear that he strongly supports a national memorial to honor veterans of World War II. But Kerrey complained that the winning design, in seeking to preserve the continuity and sightlines of the Mall, would create a monument "smaller and less significant than warranted given the importance and scope of World War II in our history."

Kerrey, whose early-morning jogging route takes him along the Mall and its landmarks, proposed two alternative locations that might allow for a taller, more prominent structure. They are Constitution Gardens and Freedom Plaza -- both near, but not on, the Mall's primary axis.

The senator has commissioned an architecture firm to produce a video illustrating the flaws in the landscaping of the current plan.

Joe Purka, a spokesman for the American Battle Monuments Commission, which is sponsoring the memorial and chose the winning design, said yesterday that "we take Senator Kerrey's concerns very seriously." But Purka said he did not agree with Kerrey's assessment of the memorial.

The commission has not yet responded to Kerrey.

The design features a sunken plaza flanked by two semicircular formations of 40-foot-high columns. It is slated to be built between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

The senator made public his objections in a letter last week to Haydn Williams, chairman of the monuments commission. At least one other senator has privately expressed similar concerns, said Mike Marinello, a spokesman for Kerrey.

Five federal and local oversight agencies will meet over the next several months to decide whether to approve the design. Members of one such agency, the Commission of Fine Arts, reviewed copies of Kerrey's letter yesterday, and found the senator's concerns "puzzling," according to a spokesman, Charles Atherton.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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