Volume 18 • Issue 41 | February 24 - March 2, 2006

C.B. 1 lashes out at state bill to move 9/11 material from Fresh Kills

By Ronda Kaysen

Community Board 1 voiced its opposition to a bill in Albany to move World Trade Center debris buried in Fresh Kills that some family members say contains human remains.

The 1.46 million tons of Trade Center debris dumped in the Staten Island landfill have been at the center of a dispute between the city and a family group, W.T.C. Families for Proper Burial, since 2002. The family members contend that remnants of their loved ones are intermingled with the 600,000 tons of fine particle dust there. The city insists the human remains were removed.

The New York State Legislature is now considering legislation to move Trade Center debris to another location. The bill does not specify how much debris should be moved or where it should be placed, but if it is signed into law, it will join a New Jersey law ordering the Port Authority to return the debris to the World Trade Center site. The Port Authority, an interstate agency, can act only if both states enact similar legislation.

Fearing the return of the 92,000 truckloads of dust and debris, C.B. 1 passed a resolution opposing “any effort to re-introduce the W.T.C. debris… back to the W.T.C. site or anywhere else.”

Board members voiced concern at a Feb. 21 public meeting that moving the debris, which is filled with toxic Trade Center dust, may pose an environmental health risk and would likely be extremely costly. “They’re bringing it back? They just got it out of here,” board member George Olsen said in a stage whisper.

Local residents have long struggled to clean their neighborhood of toxic Trade Center debris. For many of them, the thought of returning contaminants back to their neighborhood would be unthinkable. “What about the health and safety of those of us who are already here?” said board member Linda Belfer.

Diane Horning, president of W.T.C. Families for Proper Burial, insists her organization is no longer interested in returning the debris to the Trade Center. Instead, it is considering an alternate location in another part of Fresh Kills that was never used to dump trash. “There should be no need for panic,” said Horning. “These people do not listen. You talk to them, you write to them and they just have a knee jerk reaction without really knowing the facts and it infuriates me.”

If the Albany bill becomes law, the family group plans to press Governor Jon Corzine to revise the New Jersey law to match the New York legislation so it can be enacted. According to Horning, Corzine has voiced support for redrafting the legislation.

Horning has retrieved “a small piece” of the remains of her 26-year-old son, Matthew, who died in Tower 1. But about 1,200 victims were never recovered at all. Although the organization is flexible about where the dust could go—it has considered Governors Island and Shanksville, Penn. where Flight 93 crashed—it is not flexible about how much of the dust should be moved. The group wants all of the 600,000 tons of dust sifted from the 1.46 million tons of debris. If the Port Authority does not want to sift the dust out, then the group will support moving all 1.46 million tons. “These people have been treated like trash, they have been thrown away,” Horning said. “We don’t do that with our dead.”

C.B. 1 members expressed doubt that the dust contained any human remains at all and worried about how the move could be financed. Cost estimates for some of the group’s suggestions run as high as $200 million and the Albany legislation does not address cost. “How do they expect to finance this?” C.B. 1 W.TC. Redevelopment Committee Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes told Downtown Express.

Most recently, Families has focused its efforts on a site in Fresh Kills that would cost about $50 million, said Horning. “It would be easy to move,” she said. “There’s plenty of space and you could accommodate it.”

Families has also been in negations with the city to reach a settlement about moving the remains. “Those discussions have not been fruitful,” said Kenneth A. Becker, Chief of the World Trade Center Unit for the Corporation Counsel in a statement.

The city is planning a park and a memorial at the site where the W.T.C. material was taken, but the family group says that is not a good location because garbage was once dumped there. The memorial planned at the W.T.C. will contain some of the unidentified remains of 9/11 victims.

The Albany legislation is gaining support. The state Senate has already passed legislation similar to New Jersey’s law. According to Deborah Lester, a community liaison for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly members “are growing more and more friendly to the bill.”

The speaker, however, is not. “I stand firmly with the community residents and continue to have serious concerns about the implications this proposed bill would have on our ongoing efforts to restore Lower Manhattan to the unique, vibrant place it was and will be again,” he said in a statement.

Resistance to the legislation baffles Horning. “Why wouldn’t they want to properly bury the dead?” she said. “I really don’t think we’re asking for the world, we’re asking for proper respect.”



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