Friday, October 20, 2006

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 176

Just a day after learning that yet more remains were found at Ground Zero (my coverage here) and the Mayor announced an emergency meeting on the issue, word comes that Mayor Bloomberg appears to be stiffing emergency workers who responded to Ground Zero and are now suffering the ill-effects from their service.
The governor said the law he approved in August is supposed to provide survivors of retirees who die from a World Trade Center-related sickness 100 percent of salary and benefits.

But Bloomberg and the city Law Department said yesterday they determined the families are entitled to only 50 percent, based on their reading of the law.

City officials said the bill was incorrectly worded and insisted the 100 percent death benefits applied only to active responders who died from WTC-related illnesses - not retirees.

The death benefit was spurred by retired Detective James Zadroga's death from lung disease after working for months at Ground Zero.

Zadroga's 4-year-old daughter, Tyler Ann, is currently eligible for a 75 percent disability benefit, the family said. They said the mayor's action would actually cut the daughter's benefit to 50 percent.
For more on my take about the treatment of Ground Zero responders, see my essay The New Liquidators. The government has done a very poor job by those who gave their all to try and find survivors and then the remains of those who were murdered by the Islamic terrorists on 9/11. The city's position on this matter only reinforces that position.

Yet, there is some reason to question the lawsuits that are now going forward against the city over the use of respirators and other safety devices. Should the city be saddled with hundreds of millions (billions?) in damages as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks? It's a good question, and one that has crossed the legal threshhold such that those cases will now go forward.
The judge, Clinton appointee Alvin Hellerstein, foisted upon the city and its taxpayers thousands of claims of 9/11-related respiratory injuries allegedly suffered by rescue workers and contractors. Incredibly, Hellerstein ruled that - absent "discovery, additional proceedings, and a more extensive factual record, and perhaps a trial" - there's no way to know if New York City had acted in "good faith" in responding to the attacks.

Huh? As the judge himself noted, officials in all levels of government took "immediate action" after the attacks. On 9/11, Giuliani declared a local state of emergency, and he and his successor Bloomberg renewed that declaration every five days through the end of June 2002.

In responding to that emergency, the city, state and federal governments took extraordinary safety precautions. The federal Environmental Protection Agency spent an unprecedented amount on measuring air quality, and the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration oversaw the distribution of 130,000 respiratory masks.

Of course, the response was far from perfect. But the law doesn't expect perfection in an emergency situation.
Meanwhile, one of the more divisive questions about the 9/11 memorial is how the names should be arranged. Well, there's one very wealthy benefactor who wants to do something about that. He's offering up to $25 million towards the memorial if the names are arranged in an ordered fashion. The current design would have the names listed randomly.
Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick, who lost his brother and 657 employees on 9/11, has promised $25 million to build the World Trade Center Memorial - but only if victims' names are grouped the way the families want them.
Family members would have to get their wish that loved ones' names be grouped by the companies they worked for and with their office locations and ages also noted, Lutnick told the Daily News.

The current plan - also opposed by city police and fire unions, which want a separate listing of their fallen heroes - is to inscribe victims' names in random sequence.

"I want to support the memorial," Lutnick told The News. "But I only want to support the memorial if the families are taken care of. ... All of the family groups want this. They don't want a random list of names."

Lutnick stressed, "I'm one of those family members."

The current plan, favored by Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki, would reflect what memorial architect Michael Arad called the "haphazard brutality" of 9/11.

Lutnick has vowed to make up the difference between what family members donate and $25 million - equaling the largest sum pledged to date in the $300 million memorial fund-raising drive.
As a result of the emergency meeting at City Hall following the discovery of more remains at Ground Zero, a new effort to find remains at Ground Zero will be made.
"The meeting was very productive and we received excellent cooperation from all who attended. We reviewed the events of the last 48 hours and determined that the established protocols had been followed. As a result of this meeting, several steps will be taken immediately.

"Con Ed and Verizon will inspect several other manholes and underground areas near West Street, and remove any material that may be found. Under a protocol reviewed today, the City's Medical Examiner will be on-site to carefully sift through any material recovered to identify any human remains. The Medical Examiner's forensic anthropologists will work closely with Police and Fire personnel, who will be on scene at all times. If any remains are found, they will be taken to the Medical Examiner's facility, as was the case with other victims of the 9/11 attacks.

"Second, the Department of Design and Construction and the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center will lead an effort to review all underground areas that were searched during the 9/11 recovery effort and identify additional areas, if any, that weren't searched from which human remains could be recovered. They will get input and information from every City agency, State agency or authority, and private utility and report back to me in one week. From this review, we will create a schedule of additional areas to be searched, using the same protocol that is being implemented today.
Might I add that the City and DDC need to review aboveground facilities, including the rooftops of nearby buildings for possible remains. After all, hundreds of remains were found on the roof of the Deutsche Bank building earlier this year, even though the building was deemed cleared. I'd suggest looking north from Ground Zero to Fiterman Hall, and that corridor.

And while on the subject of Fiterman Hall, will anyone in CUNY and the City and State finally get their act together to take action to deconstruct that building and eyesore because it is unbelievable that no one has recognized that the damaged building needs to be deconstructed so that new development can take its place. It is a blight on the nearby 7WTC.

Others taking note at the discovery of yet more remains at Ground Zero: Gina Cobb, Freedom Isn't Free, Cake or Death, Seventh Sense, ReBelle Nation, Take Back the Memorial, and Hot Air.

Meanwhile, there's an interesting story about how rescue dogs that were brought to Ground Zero to assist in the recovery of remains are not suffering the kind of ill effects we're seeing in many of the workers who toiled at the site. Some are disputing the results of the study, but it does raise some interesting questions about the physiology of dogs and health.

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