downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 43 | March 9 - 15, 2007

Editorial

A guide to Rudy’s Downtown record

Six years ago, Rudy Giuliani reassured the nation, the city and our neighborhood through one of our most difficult periods. His leadership of the city on Sept. 11, 2001 and for the three and a half months that followed is why he is now the leading Republican presidential candidate. As a part of the community that was directly attacked, we remember Mayor Giuliani’s 9/11 record well and his current rise in the polls merits a new look as the nation begins to consider him and the rest of the contenders.

Giuliani deserves the praise he has received for being the principal American leader communicating and reassuring the public on that awful day while the president stayed away from the cameras. Over the next few weeks and months, Giuliani repeatedly took exactly the right tone and seemed to always know precisely what to say to soothe Downtowners, New Yorkers and other Americans. A mayor who had exacerbated race relations throughout his tenure nevertheless understood the importance of making sure the city’s anger did not escalate into violence against our Muslim population. He demonstrated overwhelming compassion for the families of victims by attending countless funerals.

But he also made mistakes that should make anyone considering him for president pause. After the attack, there was no dispute that the World Trade Center dust that littered Downtown apartments and offices and blew into Brooklyn contained toxic chemicals, but Giuliani stubbornly refused the call to press the Environmental Protection Agency to take responsibility for making sure buildings were tested and cleaned properly. It was long after Giuliani left office when the E.P.A. finally agreed to a cleanup plan, but it was inadequate and the mayor’s powerful voice could have led to a good plan sooner.

Before 9/11, the mayor insisted on opening an emergency command center, which was unfairly dubbed “Giuliani’s bunker,” but critics and amazingly, the mayor’s own Office of Emergency Management commissioner, Richard Sheirer, warned Giuliani not to put the center in a complex that had already been bombed by terrorists. Giuliani ignored his expert’s advice and built the center in 7 World Trade Center anyway. The command center’s emergency diesel fuel caused the destruction of 7 W.T.C. on 9/11, and while no one was killed by 7 W.T.C.’s collapse, that does not cast his decision-making instincts in a better light.

The mayor’s steadfast loyalty to Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik almost led to this ethically challenged individual becoming our nation’s Homeland Security chief. Would a President Giuliani know whom to pick and trust the most in his cabinet?

The first week or two after the attack, the priority of course was the desperate search for any possible survivors under the burning rubble, but after that, the mayor should have begun making sure the vital questions of 40,000 or so residents living below Canal St. and the thousands of neighborhood business owners were being answered.

Many residents and small business owners struggled to get information about the conditions of their homes and stores for at least a month and essential information continued to be difficult to obtain in the weeks that followed because the mayor never made it a priority.

Giuliani’s 9/11 record offers clues to what his presidency would be like and we hope to hear a thorough discussion of it as he traipses through Iowa and New Hampshire.

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