The plan to try five 9/11 suspects in Lower Manhattan appears to still be in doubt but not dead. At the end of last week, several news organizations, citing unnamed Obama administration officials, reported that a decision has been made to find another location for a civilian trial, but officials speaking on the record have steadfastly refused to confirm the reports.
David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s closest advisors, said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that no decision has been made, and Justice Department officials have subsequently stuck to that position.
Opposition to siting the trial in Lower Manhattan began in November soon after it was announced. Some residents in Chinatown and other Downtown neighborhoods objected immediately to the required security measures, and opposition snowballed in January to include Community Board 1, local politicians, real estate leaders, and Mayor Bloomberg, who cited the annual $200 million cost.
C.B. 1 has suggested moving the trial to Governors Island and federal locations in suburban counties. Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, is opposing any site in the state.
Paul Browne, the N.Y.P.D.’s top spokesperson, said the department briefly considered Governors Island and took a recent visit. He said the biggest problem was that there was no building that could serve as a prison for the five accused terrorists. The federal government determined that it would take “a couple of years” to either build a prison on the island or convert an existing building into a prison, Browne said.
Julie Menin, chairperson of C.B. 1, said she wants a clear statement from the federal government. “They should say the trial will not under any circumstances be in New York City,” she said.