#. 50. Sept. 9, 2002
NEW YORK CITY: ONE YEAR LATER
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odor of death
Offends the September night.
W. H. Auden
September 1, 1939
CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY COLOR ADVISORY CODE: ORANGE
By Bill Weinberg
with David Bloom and Subuhi Jiwani, special correspondents
THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. Weekly Dose of Hideous Violence
2. Israel Deports Two to Gaza
3. Nablus Under Harsh Curfew; IDF Blocks Medical Access
4. Tul Karm Farmers Dispossesed by Security Fence
5. IDF Blocks Palestinian Access to Water
6. IDF Abuse Charges "Tip of the Iceberg"
7. IDF: Civilian Deaths Not Our Fault
8. International Volunteer Charges IDF Abuse at Roadblock
9. Watchdog Group: Shin Bet Using Torture--Again
10. Israel Preparing for Iraq Attack
11. Palestinian Cops Bust Tul Karm Marijuana Crop
12. Abu Mazen to Refugees: You Can't Go Home Again
THE AFGANISTAN FRONT
1. Attempt on Karzai Foiled
2. Car Bombs Kill 26 in Kabul
3. Twelve Injured in Video Store Blast in Khost
4. Fifteen Dead in Khost Fracas
5. US Troops to Iran Border
6. Pakistani Forces vs Villagers in al-Qaeda Hunt
7. US Ignored 9-11 Warning from Taliban Foreign Minister
THE WAR AT HOME
1. NYPD Joins Interpol
2. CIA, Mossad Bigs to Advise FDNY
3. INS Forced to Fly Deported Asylum-Seeker Back from Dhaka
4. Six Charged in Domestic Terror Plots
5. James Ujaama: Targeted for Running Anti-War Web Site?
6. Serpico Speaks Out Against Terror War Threat
NEW YORK CITY
1. 9-11 Survivors Speak Out for Peace
2. Should Lower Manhattan be a Superfund Site?
3. Watchdog Charges: EPA Passing the Buck
4. Residents, Parents: EPA "Betrayed" Us
5. Juan Gonzalez Charges EPA With Toxic Cover-Up
6. Brooklyn: Forgotten Toxic Zone
7. Low-Income Residents Bear Brunt of 9-11 Impacts
8. Study: NYC Kids Freaked Out by Attacks
9. Heroes Get Screwed
10. Fire-Fighters Protest Bush "Stab in the Back"
11. Compensation Funds Mired in Controversy
12. Immigrant Workers: Hidden Victims
13. Bloomberg: 9-11 Records to Stay Secret
14. Controversy Over Missing Debris
15. WTC Biographer: Mega-Developers Reflect Terrorists
16. Rebuilding Lower Manhattan: Deja Vu All Over Again
17. Lower Manhattan Development Corp: Who's in Charge?
18. Forgotten History: WTC Displaced "Little Syria"
19. Don't Rebuild It!
20. Thought for the Week
THE PALESTINE FRONT
1. WEEKLY DOSE OF HIDEOUS VIOLENCE
On Sept. 2, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) tank shells killed two Palestinians in the West Bank village of Burin, according to Palestinian medical personnel. Army radio said at least one of the two was unarmed. The victims were Bahir Eid, 22, and Hussein Najar, 22, two university students who according to Najar's father Abdel Jabar Najar were not involved in any militant groups. He said his son and Eid liked to sit in the mountains at night in the eastern part of the village. "We missed them and we started searching for them. At about 3 AM we were informed by the Red Cross that they were killed," Najar said. (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 3)
The IDF killed a man Sept. 3 in response to a "military operation against the occupation," according to a joint Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine/Fatah statement. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 4)
Two Palestinians were killed by the IDF Sept. 7 in Jenin. One was a Palestinian security officer, and other a Fatah activist. On Sept. 7, IDF helicopter gunships destroyed a metal-working factory in Khan Younis. The IDF said the factory was targeted "because it was used by a terror organization to make ammunition." Abu Khalil, owner of the foundry, said it produced parts for electric generators. "Why did they hit my foundry? I did nothing wrong," he told Reuters. Also Sept. 7, six Palestinian boys were wounded in fighting with IDF troops in Jenin and Tul Karm, according to Palestinian sources. Four of the wounded were 11-12 year old boys who threw stones at the IDF. Soldiers responded with fire from mounted machine guns, wounding one critically. After the youths dispersed, Palestinian gunmen engaged in a battle with Israeli troops .(Ha'aretz, Sept. 9)
In Tul Karm Sept. 8, two Palestinian boys, age 13 and 14 were injured by IDF tank fire. The tank opened fire at a group of people violating curfew. In Ramallah, young Palestinians also defied the curfew. Dozens of boys from the al-Amari refugee camp hurled stones at IDF vehicles. The Israelis responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. (Haaretz, Sept. 9) Two militants were also reportedly killed by IDF tank fire Sept. 8 while trying to place a bomb near Sufa in the Gaza Strip. (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 9) "Troops noticed two suspects who were trying to climb the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel," the army said. (AFP, Sept. 9) Witnesses say a tank fired at a car the two were travelling in. Israeli authorities refused a Red Crescent ambulance from removing the dead until the following morning. (Xinhua, Sept. 9)
The IDF also entered the Gaza Strip village of Dir el-Balah in response to attacks that killed two Israeli soldiers. Four Palestinian militants, including the local head of Islamic Jihad were seized. A Fatah-owned building, allegedly containing an explosive device, was destroyed. IDF tank columns cut Gaza into three parts after the killing of their troops. .(Ha'aretz, Sept. 9) Palestinian sources report ten injuries to residents during Palestinian-IDF gun-battles . (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 9)
Palestinian armed actions also claimed lives. On Sept. 6, First Lieutenant Malik Grifat, 24, a Bedouin Israeli soldier from the town of Zarzir, was killed and another soldier wounded in a Palestinian attack on troops between the settlements of Dugit and Nissanit in the northern Gaza Strip. Later that day near the Kissufim Crossing between Israel and Gaza, 21-year-old Sergeant Aviad Dotan was killed and three others wounded when a bomb was detonated under a Markava 2 tank. Palestinians fired anti-tank missiles at an army post, drawing out the tank to search for the launchers. The explosive device was set off under the tank as it passed over it. A Fatah-led umbrella group claimed responsibility. "This operation came to prove that Palestinian fighters are capable of reaching everywhere and retaliating...for Israeli crimes," a caller told AP. This marked the third successful attack on Israeli tanks during the Intifada. (Ha'aretz, Aug. 6)
Also Sept. 6, a car loaded with 1,300 pounds of explosives was detonated by Israeli police on a dirt road near the West Bank, on the Israeli side of the border. The drivers abandoned their cars and escaped, after being pursued by police following an alert by volunteer border patrols. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said had the bomb been detonated at its target, it "would have cost such loss of life that it would have changed almost the entire political situation in one moment." (AP, Sept. 5)
A bomb also went off in the Jewish quarter of Hebron Sept. 8. No injuries occurred. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 9) IDF troops at the IDF outpost in the Gaza settlement block Gush Katif came under Palestinian gunfire Sept. 8, but no injuries were reported. (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 9) (David Bloom)
2. ISRAEL DEPORTS TWO TO GAZA
Two siblings, Kifah and Intisar Ajouri, were deported by Israeli troops to Gaza from the West Bank Sept. 5, for a period of two years. Israel's High Court of Justice argued that because the West Bank and Gaza Strip are "single territorial unit," the expulsion of the Ajouris amounts to "assigned residence," which they ruled permissible under article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The court ruled the action was not "deportation" as defined under article 49 of the Fourth Conventions, because the Ajouris were not sent to a foreign country.
The army was supposed to drop them off at Gaza's Erez road junction, but instead left them in a vineyard at the edge of the dunes near the Israeli settlement of Netzarim, known as one of the most dangerous places on the Gaza Strip. Sheikh Ijilin, where they were found themselves, was the spot where an IDF raid killed four Bedouin in their homes Aug. 28\. Cell phones brought the press to where they were. In an impromptu news conference, Instisar said, "If the Israeli security forces had a scrap of evidence against us, they would have put us on trial and not commit the war crime of deportation." Institar is accused of sewing suicide belts for bombers, and Kifah of being the lookout when explosives were being transferred from a car. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 4, 5) (David Bloom)
3. NABLUS UNDER HARSH CURFEW; IDF BLOCKS MEDICAL ACCESS
Nablus has been under continuous curfew since June 20. The Palestine Monitor notes Sept. 6 the humanitarian situation there is growing more critical as tanks have surrounded and blocked all access to the Rafidia hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent, and the Palstinian Medical Relief clinic. Five volunteers of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were seized by Israeli forces, and taken to detention at the settlement of Ariel. The army has announced the five are to be deported, and any other internationals they find in the city will be deported as well. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, President of the Palestinian Medical Relief, said: "The situation is very critical in Nablus; people have been living under constant curfew for almost three months and are now being denied access to medical treatment. The arrest of five internationals in Nablus yesterday shows that the Israeli army wants to hide its actions. We demand immediate international intervention to stop these dangerous and inhuman actions of the Israeli army". (Palestine Monitor, Sept. 6) (David Bloom)
4. TUL KARM FARMERS DISPOSSESED BY SECURITY FENCE
Jen, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), attended a meeting outside Tul Karm with mayors and farmers from small villages in the area, whose land it being confiscated to build Israel's security fence. The land seizure means these farmers are losing their way of life and means to provide for their families. IDF soldiers have assured the farmers they will be shot if they try to tend their crops. The ISM appeals to the American Farmworker's Union to act in solidarity with these Palestinian farming families who will soon lose everything. (ISM, Sept. 5) The farmers were served notice by the IDF Aug. 12 and given one week to appeal the seizure. (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12) (David Bloom)
5. IDF BLOCKS PALESTINIAN ACCESS TO WATER
Amira Hass details in a report in Ha'aretz how the IDF is deliberately blocking Palestinian access to water, erecting a rampart at the only remaining open entrance of the village of Meghayer. Ramparts were also erected alongside the village's access road, blocking vehicles from entering fields, groves and Bedouin encampments in the area. A local Jewish settler identified as Ami, foreman of a local quarry that employs Palestinians, said the ramparts "simply cut off their access to water. If you come and choke a man, make him thirsty for water, then he will respond with `I will die for Palestine.' That's how someone who has nothing to lose responds." The barricades, he noted, are perfect for sniping from behind. "What drives me crazy is that in Israel, people say that we are making concessions here and there--when the reality is the exact opposite." Several villages in the area are not connected to the National Water Carrier, and must rely on tankers to bring them water from the central well of the Ramallah Water Undertaking (RWU). But an IDF rampart, removed after three days as a result of Ami's complaints, blocked access to that well. The remaining ramparts are decreasing the amount of water area villagers are consuming. "The flocks of sheep are going to die of thirst," Ami said. (Ha'aretz, Sept.3)
Since 1967, Israel has controlled the water resources of the West Bank and Gaza. While there are Jewish settlements with green lawns, thousands of Palestinians in towns and villages have no running water for days at a time during summer. No Israeli settlers have to worry about running out of water. Palestinians use 1/4 to 1/3 the amount of water consumed by Israelis. (NYT, Sept. 2, 2001) (David Bloom)
6. IDF ABUSE CHARGES "TIP OF THE ICEBERG"
An Israeli military court indicted four soldiers from the elite Shimshon brigade on charges they abused Hebron area residents. The indictments say on July 23, the soldiers removed by force nine Palestinians from two taxis they were riding in, and roughed them up. One soldier hit one of the victims in the face with a helmet. Others were beaten with fists. The soldiers are also accused of smashing the taxis' windows and slashing the tires. Lior Yavneh, an official with the Israel human rights group B'Tselem, said, "The number of cases which are being investigated is very small, and the investigations themselves are very superficial." B'Tselem says the actual amount of abuse perpetrated by the IDF is much higher. "The case of the Shimshon soldiers was the only one that received serious treatment by army investigators," said Yavneh, "and that was only because it was exposed in the press." The Shimshon incident is the worst case of abuse actually brought to court since the Intifada began, and the only one in which the IDF has brought criminal charges against the soldiers. Ha'aretz recently quoted high-ranking IDF officers as saying the incidents of abuse that are publicized are only "the tip of the iceberg." (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Sept. 10) (David Bloom)
7. IDF: CIVILIAN DEATHS NOT OUR FAULT
In response to international outcry and even questioning from Israeli President Moshe Katsav as to whether the IDF is "trigger-happy," the military conducted an internal investigation to see if its troops were at fault in the deaths of 12 unarmed Palestinians in three recent incidents "The findings reveal that the standing open fire orders, used in the three incidents, were appropriate," an IDF statement said. "The IDF will continue to act in order to prevent terrorist activities, which threaten Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers, while doing its utmost not to harm innocent civilians." Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat reacted to the findings by saying it was "shameful for Israel not to bring to justice those who kill innocent children, innocent mothers in cold blood." (Ha'aretz, Sept. 8, AP, Sept. 7) (David Bloom)
8. INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER CHARGES IDF ABUSE AT ROADBLOCK
The following is from a journal kept by Claire Theret of the UK, an "international" who returned recently from serving as a volunteer observer on the West Bank:
"Last winter, the Al-Ram checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem was closed off. It was very cold and a large crowd had gathered waiting to be allowed through, including many women, children and elderly people. After a long wait, a soldier announced that he would open the checkpoint for five minutes and that everybody would have to run through; once the 5 minutes were up, he would close the checkpoint and open fire on those who were left behind. People were very frightened and everybody started running, including the elderly. After 5 minutes, the soldier closed the checkpoint as he had said. No one doubted that the soldier would also do as he said and start shooting. It is not unusual for soldiers to open fire on a peaceful crowd, and later cover their tracks by claiming that members of the crowd had started throwing stones at them first." (al-Ahram, Aug. 3) (David Bloom)
9. WATCHDOG GROUP: SHIN BET USING TORTURE--AGAIN
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel claimed Sept. 9 that the Shin Bet security service has resumed torturing prisoners, using a variety of methods ruled illegal by the High Court of Justice three years ago. The Committee's findings are based on testimony from prisoners, as well as reports quoting a senior Shin Bet official that the service has used illegal procedures 90 times since the court ruling. According to the committee, prisoners were subjected to sleep deprivation, blows, chaining to chairs, and being forced to crouch for long periods. They were also exposed to extreme heat and cold. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 10) (David Bloom)
10. ISRAEL PREPARING FOR IRAQ ATTACK
The Israeli government has instructed its emergency and security services to complete preparations for the possibility of a US strike on Iraq and subsequent Iraqi attack on Israel by November, according to officials. The US has not confirmed when and if it will strike Iraq, but Israeli officials said Nov. 1 seemed "reasonable" as a target date. (AP, Sept. 3) Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indicated Sept. 5 he expects the US will warn Israel prior to attacking Iraq. (AP, Sept. 6) (David Bloom)
11. PALESTINIAN COPS BUST TUL KARM MARIJUANA CROP
In what residents see as a possible return towards normalcy, Palestinian Authority police in Tul Karm confiscated more than 1,000 marijuana plants from a local grower. Tulkarm police chief Col. Bilal Abu Zeid told Israeli authorities that the suspect, described as a "local drug trafficker," has escaped to Israeli territory. "Israeli and Palestinian criminals are cooperating in distributing the drugs, and we must join hands in the battle against them," he said. This marks the first time since Operation Defensive Shield in April that Palestinians have mentioned resuming cooperation with Israeli police. Abu Zeid said the vacuum caused by his forces being unable to enforce the law as a result of the Israeli occupation has led to a rise drug trafficking throughout Tul Karm and the West Bank. "A 20-year-old thug with a pistol has more power than I do," one security official complained. "People here have no respect for us because they see that we cannot offer them any help. The occupation is to blame for this chaos, because they [Israel] virtually destroyed all the PA institutions here, including the police stations and the prison." (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 5) (David Bloom)
12. ABU MAZEN TO REFUGEES: YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
Abu Mazen, mentioned as a possible prime minister of Palestine and himself a refugee from Safed, spoke plainly to residents of the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria recently: "I'm sure that you all want to go back to Palestine, to the homes your families left in the Galilee, Jaffa and Haifa." The crowd cheered, and Abu Mazen continued: "Indeed, the Israelis expelled us from our lands, and I and my friends in the leadership will insist on our right to return. But it is important for you to know what is awaiting all those who choose to realize that right and prefer it over the option to settle in the new state of Palestine or to emigrate to Canada, or Europe, or to join families in other countries... You won't be going back to your home, nor to the neighborhood or the village. The houses, neighborhoods, and villages are all gone. New cities have been built on your lands, and in your houses, Jewish babies have been born. You will join a Palestinian minority in a country where the language of the state is not their language, its culture is not theirs, its flag is not theirs, and the anthem is not theirs. No jobs await you, nor a welcome home."(Ha'aretz, Sept. 6) (David Bloom)
1. ATTEMPT ON KARZAI FOILED
On Sept. 3, a uniformed provincial government security officer leveled his rifle at Afghan leader Hamid Karzai who was visiting Khandahar, and fired three rounds. Karzai was unhurt. Khandahar governor Gul Agha Sherzai was slightly grazed by a bullet. The three suspected attackers were killed by US security personnel. An Afghan guard was also killed. Seventeen have been arrested, including a commander with purported links to the Taliban. Khalid Pashtoon, press secretary for Shirzai, said "This morning 100 cows were sacrificed and 200 lambs were sacrificed in thanks to God for saving them." ( NYT, Sept. 7, ABC.net.au, Sept. 6) (David Bloom)
2. CAR BOMBS KILL 26 IN KABUL
On Sept. 6, two car bombs exploded in Kabul, killing 26, and wounding 150. The blasts occurred near the Ministry of Information and Culture, although it was unclear if the ministry was the target. One suspect is in custody. Foreign Minister Abdullah said: "Deliberate efforts of destabilization are coming from two main sources: al-Qaeda and Taliban, and Hekmatyar." There have been further warnings of more bombs. "We've had warnings about car bombs, but how to find them is quite a different matter," said Abdullah . (UK Times, Sept. 7; CNN, Sept. 6) (David Bloom)
3. TWELVE INJURED IN VIDEO STORE BLAST IN KHOST
Twelve people were injured while watching a video Sept. 8 at a mini-cinema located in a video store in Khost. "The bomb exploded when people were watching a movie on a VCR at a shop selling audio and video cassettes," a witness said. Ten were seriously wounded and had to be taken to Khost hospital. Mohammad Khan Gurbuz, spokesman for the Khost governor, said four of the wounded were in serious condition. "This seems to be the handiwork of Taliban or al-Qaeda," he said. Several attacks on video stores have taken place this year in Khost. (ABC.net.au. Sept. 8) (David Bloom)
4. FIFTEEN DEAD IN KHOST FRACAS
Fifteen are reported dead in fighting between factions in Khost, Paktia province. The fighting started on rumors that US forces has captured renegade warlord Padsha Khan Zadran. His forces attacked the governor's building and occupied the mayor's office. Zadran claims to be the rightful governor of Paktia. The Karzai government has threatened to use force to make Zadran submit to central authority. (BBC, Sept. 8) Zadran met with Lt. Gen Dan McNeill to ``discuss the placement of two checkpoints that were impeding the flow of coalition forces,'' according to US Army spokesman Col. Roger King. Zadran went on the radio to deny rumors he had been captured. (AP, Sept. 9) Meanwhile, at least 16 are dead near Khost in recent days in a different outbreak of fighting--between the Subari and Balikhel tribes. (BBC, Sept. 8) (David Bloom)
See also WW3 REPORT #31
5. U.S. TROOPS TO IRAN BORDER
Hundreds of US troops are conducting raids in villages along Afghanistan's western border with Iran. US and Afghan intelligence reports say that senior al-Qaeda operatives are along the Iran-Afghanistan border. "The new focus is in the west, rather than the east and Pakistan where it has been going on now for most of a year," said Afghan military intelligence chief Aman Khan. "This is an area where al-Qa'eda has managed to maintain a foothold under the cover of smugglers. For the last nine months, al-Qaeda cells have been moving in and out of this area in the same way that they have been able to straddle the Pakistani border."
The Washington Post quotes Arab intelligence sources as saying that a senior al-Qaeda spiritual and military leader, Abu Hafs, AKA "the Mauritanian", was staying in a guest house in an Iranian border town, possibly Mashad or Zabol. "We have solid proof that al-Qaeda has been able to move in and out of Iran," said Hilal Uddin, Afghanistan's deputy interior minister. Uddin said the US troops were operating in the zone as a result of the Afghan government's own intelligence. "In my view, they have finally found something along that border that interests them a great deal." (UK Telegraph, Sept. 7) (David Bloom)
6. PAKISTANI FORCES vs VILLAGERS IN AL-QAEDA HUNT
Pakistan launched an attack on the village of Jani Khel Sept. 4 after the village authorities refused to hand over eight suspected al-Qaeda fighters. Troops shelled the house of Maulana Shams ul-Haq, a Muslim cleric, and arrested to of his brothers. Soldiers have sealed off roads to the village and ordered journalists out. Hundreds of troops were sent in Sept. 2 after villagers allegedly ambushed a checkpoint where Pakistani government forces were holding the al-Qaeda suspects, and seized the suspects. Nasir Khan, a village elder, said that the villagers would refuse to turn over "our guests to their enemy," and were ready to fight to protect them. Officials said the suspects are Arabs, but villagers deny they are al-Qaeda. ( UK Times, Sept. 5) (David Bloom)
7. U.S. IGNORED 9-11 WARNING FROM TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER
The ex-Taliban foreign minister Muttawakil--often identified as a moderate who opposed the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, reportedly tried to warn the US of a massive impending attack on US soil, according the UK Independent. Sources say Muttawakil learned of the plot from the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yildash. An aide to Muttawakil described the meeting: "At first Muttawakil wouldn't say why he was so upset. Then it all came out. Yildash had revealed that Osama bin Laden was going to launch an attack on the United States. It would take place on American soil and it was imminent. Yildash said Osama hoped to kill thousands of Americans." Muttawakil then dispatched his aide to US diplomats. The aid met US consul general David Katz in the Pakistani border town of Peshewar, in late July 2001. Another US official, possibly from intelligence, was also said present. Katz, now stationed in Eritrea, declined to comment. But other US sources say the warning was never passed on.
"We were hearing a lot of that kind of stuff," said one source. "When people keep saying the sky's going to fall in and it doesn't, a kind of warning fatigue sets in. I actually thought it was all an attempt to rattle us in an attempt to please their funders in the Gulf, to try to get more donations for the cause." Muttawakil's aide never said who he represented, which may have led the US to take him less seriously. "As I recall, I thought he was speaking from his own personal perspective," one source said. "It was interesting that he was from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but he gave no indication this was a message he was carrying."
In Kabul, the aide boasted to a reporter, "I told Mr. Katz they should launch a new Desert Storm like the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait but this time they should call it Mountain Storm and they should drive the foreigners out of Afghanistan." Muttawakil also reportedly sent the aid to the UN--which similarly rebuffed him. "He appeared to be speaking in total desperation, asking for a Mountain Storm, he wanted a sort of deus ex machina to solve his country's problems," said a UN official familiar with the warnings. "But before 9-11, there was just not much hope that Washington would become that engaged in Afghanistan." (UK Independent, Sept. 7) (David Bloom)
THE WAR AT HOME
1. NYPD JOINS INTERPOL
The New York Police Department is planning to place officers in at least five foreign countries in an ambitious strategy to integrate the NYPD into the global War on Terrorism. The foreign assignments will be in London, Toronto and the French city of Lyon--where Interpol is based. Officers will also be dispatched to cities in Israel and Germany, sources said. Officially, police brass will confirm little. "This is one of the ideas that is under consideration," said Michael O'Looney, a police spokesman. But Department sources told the Daily News that city cops may also be stationed in Egypt, Southeast Asia and other hotspots. The move marks the first time NYC police have been assigned to Interpol, the international police organization. Sources say analysts at Police Headquarters are screening personnel records for cops who speak Arabic, Farsi and Urdu for assignment overseas. The new international approach is spearheaded by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who was a vice president of Interpol and served as Customs Service commissioner after his first stint as the police commissioner. Kelly created the NYPD's counter-terrorism bureau, bringing in retired Marine Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti to head it. The commissioner also broadened the focus of the intelligence bureau and put former CIA analyst David Cohen in charge.
In June, five investigators from the NYPD counter-terrorism and intelligence bureaus flew to Israel for a seminar on prevention and detection of suicide bombers. The NYPD was the only municipal police force invited by the Israeli police and military experts. Detectives on the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force have also been involved in interrogating Abu Zabaydah, accused al-Qaeda operations chief, since his capture in a March raid in Pakistan . (Daily News, July 14)
2. CIA, MOSSAD BIGS TO ADVISE FDNY
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg named former CIA director James Woolsey to lead a task force on preparing the Fire Department for any future terrorist attacks. Woolsey, now a vice president of the Booz, Allen & Hamilton security firm, will lead a panel also stacked with Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear physicist Gregory Canavan, Nobel Prize-winning biological warfare expert Joshua Lederberg, and Shabtai Shavit, former chief of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. "We have to develop an expertise and a level of preparedness that we have never had to deal with before," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.
Woolsey said his job will be "assessing what the department needs and answering questions from the department," and that he will work on a pro bono basis. He also said he felt indebted to the Fire Department because fire-fighters "hustled" his son Benjamin out of the trade center moments before the south tower collapsed. He said biological and chemical sensors, and improved communication and surveillance--such as "unmanned aerial vehicles"--are among the items the panel could examine. He said the panel will usually meet via conference call. (Newsday, Sept. 4)
3. INS FORCED TO FLY DEPORTED ASYLUM-SEEKER BACK FROM DHAKA
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was forced to return a deported Bangladeshi man, Mohammad Arif Rashid, from Bangladesh to the US after his lawyer sent a letter to the Attorney General John Ashcroft stating that a petition requesting the review of his asylum case was still pending before the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Rashid, 26, originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on August 21, 2001 with a British passport. One immigration official found his passsport "suspicious" and detained him at Lancaster Immigration Jail. Rashid applied for political asylum during his detention but was denied. The INS also turned down his appeal.
Mehdi Hasan, Rashid's family friend who resides in Los Angeles, assisted him in an appeal to the 9th Circuit. Rashid's lawyer Garris Sarin filed a petition for review of the case by April 29, the due date. However, Rashid was suddenly deported on June 22--one of many deported this summer over minor visa violations. The office of the attorney general responded to Sarin's letter challenging the deportation by asking the INS to "show cause." The INS could not prove that it has sufficient cause to deport Rashid, and was forced to return him to the United States.
On July 15, the INS purchased a first-class, one-way ticket on British Airways at the cost of $1,952 to fly Rashid back to California. When Rashid presented the INS order for his return to the US consulate in Dhaka, officials gave him a hard time, stating that such an incident had never occurred in the consulate's history. When Hasan sent the consulate documents supporting the order, the officials relented. Rashid landed back at LAX July 27, and was immediately detained and returned to Lancaster Jail. Sarin and Hasan are hopeful about Rashid's asylum petition since he was wrongly deported--something that might turn the verdict in his favor. (Weekly Thikana, Aug. 16, trans. from Bangla by Moinuddin Naser for Voices that Must be Heard: The Best of New York's Ethnic and Immigrant Press, Independent Press Association)
4. SIX CHARGED IN DOMESTIC TERROR PLOTS
On Aug. 28, federal grand juries charged six men with providing material support to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in the US. James Ujaama, a US citizen from Seattle, was accused of trying to set up a "jihad training camp" on the West Coast. Four other men, Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, Youssef Hmimssa, Farouk Ali-Haimoud--all of whom were arrested in Detroit shortly after 9-11 and had been in the US since 2000--were charged with operating a "covert underground support unit" and "a sleeper operational combat cell" for Salafiyya, an Islamist movement reportedly affiliated with al-Qaeda. A fifth man, named Abdella, was also charged with providing "material support and resources" to terrorist groups, and remains at large.
Ujaama, who denies any link to terrorism, was arrested at his aunt's home in Denver July 22 and held as a material witness. His new indictment states he met with "co-conspirators" in October and November 1999 to discuss establishing a jihad training camp in Bly, OR. He is also accused of arranging "for further training, in order to be able to attend violent jihad-training camps in Afghanistan, the commission of armed robbery, the building of underground bunkers to hide ammunition and weapons, the creation of poisonous materials for public consumption, and the firebombing of vehicles." In an Aug. 27 written statement, Ujaama said, "Should it be the policy of this government to convict innocent people before any hearing or before any trial? My constitutional rights, my civil liberties and my future have been grossly violated in a bid to seek political gain, not justice or truth." Ujaama, an African American convert to Islam, is well-known for his community work against drugs and prostitution in Seattle, and June 10, 1994 has been declared as James Ujaama Day by lawmakers in Washington state. He is the author of a 1991 book, The Young People's Guide to Starting a Business Without Selling Drugs.
The indictment against Koubriti, Hannan, Hmimssa and Haimoud accuses them of plotting attacks on a US air base in Incerlik, Turkey, and a hospital in Amman, Jordan, as well as Disneyland, CA, and the MGM hotel and casino in Las Vegas. They are also charged with conspiracy to engage in credit card fraud. The indictment says the men used a "coded form of communication" to discuss operations, and were "involved in plans to obtain weaponry to benefit operatives overseas." (AP, Aug. 29)
5. JAMES UJAAMA: TARGETED FOR RUNNING ANTI-WAR WEB SITE?
Evidence against James Ujaama, the Seattle activist arrested July 22 and later charged with aiding al-Qaeda, partially concerns an anti-war web site he ran. The Justice Department says a former Taliban member has linked Ujaama to a London mosque run by radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. The mosque, whose members included accused "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui, allegedly served as a Taliban recruiting center. Ujaama's relatives--who he was visiting at the time of his July 22 arrest in Denver--insist he is a devout Muslim and sharp critic of the US government, but not a terrorist. Born in Denver as James Earnest Thompson, he moved to Seattle as a child, and legally changed his name in 1989. His brother Mustafa Ujaama said that James did spend time in London --where he ran a website called StopAmerica.org, launched Sept. 20, just nine days after the 9-11 attacks. The StopAmerica.org mission statement read: "We are Americans united against war. We want the killing to end and America's foreign policy makers brought to justice for the attempted genocide of more than 500,000 innocent children in Iraq... We the people of the United States charge this government and their coalition with conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes of terrorism against Muslim people in our names."
Although Ujaama ran StopAmerica.org, it was registered in Karachi, Pakistan, by a man named Faisal Iqbal, according to the Denver Post. Around the time Ujaama launched StopAmerica, British authorities shut down a London-based site, The Ultimate Jihad Experience, which advertised paramilitary training, according to the Seattle Times. Federal authorities maintain Ujaama worked on the site and was employed by its Web server, Sakina Security Services.
Contacted by the Denver Post at his aunt's home, Mustafa Ujaama said his brother is a pacifist in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. "We don't believe you can compel people to do things with force," Mustafa said. The T-shirts James sold to fund StopAmerica.org were printed with the slogan: "God Blessed America, Not War." (Denver Post, July 25)
6. SERPICO SPEAKS OUT AGAINST TERROR WAR THREAT
NEW YORK CITY
Frank Serpico, the whistle-blowing ex-New York City cop whose revelations sparked the 1970s NYPD corruption scandals and inspired a Hollywood blockbuster, criticized the government's anti-terrorism measures at a July 4th reading of the Declaration of Independence in Chatham, NY. "It is my opinion that never before have we, as a nation, stood in greater danger of losing our individual liberties as we are today," he said. "We, the people of this great nation, are being punished for the transgressions of our leaders and their consorts." Ignoring jeers from the audience, he continued with his statement before moving on to the text of the historic document. "When I still have the freedom to speak, I'll always use it," he said. Organizers of the event, which also featured a performance of the play "1776," said they were surprised by Serpico's comments. Peter Maas wrote the book "Serpico," about Serpico's battle against police corruption. The book became a hit movie starring Al Pacino . (AP, July 6)
1. 9-11 SURVIVORS SPEAK OUT FOR PEACE
"I don't want any other family to endure my sorrow," says Colleen Kelly, whose brother, William Kelly Jr. was killed at the World Trade Center. Kelly and members of 39 other 9-11 survivor families founded the group Peaceful Tomorrows to raise a voice of dissent to the military response to the attacks. Peaceful Tomorrows will be leading an all-night anniversary vigil for world peace to be held starting 7 PM Sept. 10 in New York's Washington Square Park. At 10 AM Sept. 11, there will be a human chain extending from the park to the World Trade Center site.
The Peaceful Tomorrows home page
states that the group "is an advocacy organization founded by family members of September Eleventh victims. Its mission is to seek effective nonviolent responses to terrorism, and identify a commonality with all people similarly affected by violence throughout the world. By conscientiously exploring peaceful options in our search for justice, we choose to spare additional innocent families the suffering that we have already experienced--as well as to break the endless cycle of violence and retaliation engendered by war."
Speakers at the vigil will include other 9-11 survivors--as well as Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American who lost 19 relatives when the US attacked her family's village near Kandahar. "My aunts, uncles, and cousins were simply people living their lives, not Taliban or al-Qaeda members," says Sultan. "How many more innocents will be killed?"
Other featured speakers include activist priest Daniel Berrigan, writer and film-maker Michael Moore, Pacifica radio personality Amy Goodman and Michael Ratner, attorney for Guantanamo detainees. Other participating groups include the War Resisters League, American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Peace Action and Pax Christi. ( WRL press release, Aug. 19)
2. SHOULD LOWER MANHATTAN BE A SUPERFUND SITE?
In a series of scathing memos critical of EPA's response to 9-11, Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist in the EPA's hazardous waste division, argued that asbestos levels in lower Manhattan were so high the entire area should be declared a Superfund site. Jenkins claimed the asbestos contamination up to seven blocks away from Ground Zero was comparable to or higher than that found at the designated Superfund site in Libby, MT. The EPA did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Jenkins' memos by James Nash, who reported on her claims in the May 10 issue of Occupational Hazards weekly.
But Dr. Stephen Levin, medical director of the I.J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at New York's Mount Sinai hospital, told Nash, "It's not unreasonable to make the area a Superfund site." By late January, Levin said he had already seen more than 100 patients who worked in lower Manhattan and developed various respiratory ailments he attributed to breathing the air without proper respiratory protection.
3. WATCHDOG CHARGES: EPA PASSING THE BUCK
One year after the 9-11 disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency is finally starting to clean hundreds of apartments in lower Manhattan which were contaminated by asbestos and other toxic materials released by the collapse of the twin towers and the fires that burned for four months afterward. But William F. Henning Jr., chairman of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health ( NYCOSH) protested in an Aug. 23 opinion piece in the Daily News, "It's a shame that the agency isn't going to do it right."
Henning sees the EPA's apartment clean-up effort as too little--and almost too late: "When the EPA announced in June that it would do this, it was reversing the position it held ever since Sept. 11. For eight long months, the EPA insisted no cleanup was necessary. Then, when at last it agreed that, okay, maybe one was, it said the cleanup was 'to reduce the safety concerns of residents.' As if the release of hundreds of tons of asbestos, fiberglass, lead, highly alkaline concrete dust and many other toxic substances wasn't a real public health hazard, just the concern of some worry-warts. The indoor cleanup should have started right after the collapse, at the same time the outdoor cleanup began. It is now too late to prevent the exposures that have already occurred, but it is not too late to prevent future harmful exposures."
Henning protests that the EPA clean-up is limited to residences below Canal St., and then only when the occupant requests it. "The contamination is not limited to residences. It is present in workplaces and public spaces and in residences where the owner does not request a cleanup. All contaminated places should be cleaned up on a building-by-building basis. Then, too, the cleanup must be conducted by properly trained and protected personnel. Our previous calls for protection of all cleanup workers were ignored, with the result that more than 400 day laborers face the prospect of long-term respiratory illness. As we learned last week, the EPA itself was guilty of a shocking oversight lapse when it permitted a cleanup contractor to spew asbestos into the air by vacuuming downtown streets with improperly equipped trucks."
Henning calls on the EPA to require contractors to prove their workers have been properly trained and equipped. He also demands that the agency "take full charge of the cleanup. Though the EPA has the sole responsibility for the cleanup, it perversely rejects its mandated role. Instead, it is calling the cleanup a 'collaborative' effort of federal, state and city agencies. Only the federal government has the resources and expertise to clean lower Manhattan. The EPA can and should call on other agencies to assist in this effort, but not to co-manage it... It is not too late to do it right."
4. RESIDENTS, PARENTS: EPA "BETRAYED" US
Under the long-stalled EPA residential clean-up program which begins this month, each of the 30,000 residences below Canal Street is eligible to have a team wipe down every surface in the home, wet-vacuum the rugs and upholstery and check vents for asbestos. So far, 3,205 people have applied for a full cleanup and 905 for testing. The abatement could cost up to $7,000 per apartment, according to the EPA.
But Manhattan Rep. Jerrold Nadler is among those who criticize the program. The planned cleanup won't include small businesses, firehouses--or the residences of hundreds of thousands in Brooklyn who were in the path of the toxic plume. It covers only the residents who specifically request it, leaving them open to recontamination by common areas that share a ventilation system. "It's a major health catastrophe," Nadler said. "We're allowing it to happen, and it's immoral because people are going to die from this."
The Los Angeles Times interviewed one local resident, Nina Lavin, who insists her building is contaminated, and is angry the EPA didn't do more to warn of the hazards. Her apartment, seven blocks north of Ground Zero, faced the towers, and her belongings were coated with dust when the buildings fell. Reassured by EPA chief Christie Whitman's claims two days after the disaster that there were "no significant levels" of asbestos in the city's air, Lavin followed the NYC Health Department's recommendations to just wipe up with a wet mop and rags. Months later, Lavin said she developed chronic bronchitis. The building manager refused to pay for a professional cleanup, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down her request to be relocated. She paid to have her apartment tested, and found it contained 12 times the maximum legal level of asbestos. She now lives in a hotel until her apartment is thoroughly cleaned--but fears re-contamination from other tenants who share the air system in the 460-unit building. "It's really distressing to learn that I've been living with these contamination levels for all these months," Lavin said. "I have no idea what the long-term prognosis is for me or for all of us."
Dr. Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says the characteristic "World Trade Center cough" documented in hundreds of rescue workers is caused by corrosive concrete dust, ground glass and other lung irritants. But Landrigan is worried that some effects may show up years later. Asbestos has microscopic fibers that lodge in the lungs, causing scars and eventually tumors. "It's fair to say that if someone has been exposed to asbestos indoors for a year, that they have an increased risk of developing cancer," Landrigan said.
Also concerned are parents whose kids go to Stuyvesant High School, four blocks from Ground Zero and adjacent to a staging ground for rescue workers and debris removal during the recovery effort. With the help of attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, a Stuyvesant alumnus, the parents' association forced the city Board of Education to agree to clean the school's ventilation system and re-test before students returned in September. The city says it has spent $1.7 million since Sept. 11 on decontaminating the school. But in August, checks found asbestos levels 250 times the legal limit in the auditorium carpet. Jenna Orkin, a parent who stopped by the school during the cleanup last month, said workers were swabbing the ventilation system--without protective gear--and releasing more asbestos-laden dust into the air. Teachers and students are now debating whether to return to the school. Said parent Paul Edwards: "The Board of Education has an obligation to provide safe schools, and when they told us it was OK to come back, I believed them, At this point, I feel totally betrayed." (LAT, Sept. 4)
5. JUAN GONZALEZ CHARGES EPA WITH TOXIC COVER-UP
Last Sept. 18, Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Whitman announced to a shocked city: "I am glad to reassure the people of New York...that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink." But Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez accuses the EPA of a massive cover-up in his new book
Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse
(New Press, 2002).
Gonzalez says EPA officials "directly misled the public" through bureaucratic subterfuge. The agency publicly reported acceptable levels for dioxin and other toxins according to "screening guidelines" as if they were long-standing federal policy--when in fact they were ad hoc guidelines that the EPA's NY headquarters devised on their own in the wake of the disaster, with no peer review. Writes Gonzalez: "Christine Whitman, Mayor Giuliani, and the other public officials should have told New Yorkers the truth from the start--that no one could guarantee the air around Ground Zero was safe because no one had ever confronted a disaster of such proportions. They should also have released all the raw data on government testing as soon as they had the results and made clear that safety levels for many of these toxins did not even exist." Instead, the activists who first alerted Gonzalez to the cover-up had to file under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get the data released.
The book, based on Gonzalez's ground-breaking reportage at the News, catches EPA officials in distortion after distortion. Said Whitman Sept. 13: "EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New York City." Her Sept. 18 statement on asbestos findings was somewhat more guarded: "The EPA has performed 62 dust sample analyses for the presence of asbestos and other substances. Most dust samples fall below the EPA's definition of 'asbestos containing material.'" Gonzalez deconstructs the obfuscation. Whitman was technically correct that "most" samples were below the EPA's 1% standard--but a significant proportion were not. The EPA's own New York region chief counsel Walter Mugdan told the NY Bar Association in January that "around 35% of the samples of bulk dust taken in Lower Manhattan in the first few days after the collapse exceeded the 1% value."
Gonzalez found that at the same time the EPA was issuing re-assuring statements, between Sept. 13 and 16 it conducted extensive testing for asbestos and other toxins at its headquarter half a mile north of the WTC site with sophisticated equipment that can detect even the tiniest fibers. One result found asbestos levels of 25 fibers per square millimeter--far below the 70-fiber standard the EPA was calling a "safe level" for long term exposure. Yet agency officials immediately called in vacuum trucks to clean the building's lobby, and replaced all heating and air-conditioning filters at the facility. The agency notified no one it had taken this action--it was only revealed through the FOIA.
Officialdom was not happy with Gonzalez's aggressive journalism. The head of the NYC Partnership and Chamber of Commerce published a letter in the Daily News accusing Gonzalez of "a sick Halloween prank," while Christine Whitman wrote a guest opinion Oct. 30 to refute his findings. The News subsequently tried to squelch his reportage, but the paper's metro editor Richard Pienciak stood up for Gonzalez's controversial coverage of the toxic mess. Fed info by attorney Joel Kupferman of New York Environmental Law & Justice Project, Gonzalez pursued his investigation.
The effort paid off, with New York politicians eventually calling out the EPA for duplicity. A White Paper on Lower Manhattan Air Qaulity prepared by Rep. Jerrold Nadler in April found that "EPA admin Christine Todd Whitman misled the public when she announced to New Yorkers, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, that their '...air is safe to breathe' and that they '...need not be concerned about environmental issues as they return to their homers and workplaces,' as the EPA did not have the proper information to make such assurances."
See also WW3 REPORT #s 7 and 21
6. BROOKLYN: FORGOTTEN TOXIC ZONE
Scientists and health officials have studied the notorious "World Trade Center cough" and surveyed lower Manhattan neighborhoods for victims of inhaled 9-11 debris. But some researchers now see a critical flaw in all the research, EPA cleanup programs and federal health services. The efforts are concentrated on Manhattan, but--except for the area immediately around Ground Zero--the plume went directly to Brooklyn. The area paper Newsday has obtained high-resolution satellite photos shot on Sept. 11 indicating that the plume blew across the East River, through the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Park Slope, across Prospect Park and straight out to Coney Island. Though the plume's density was highest directly over Ground Zero, throughout Sept. 11 the plume completely obscured the Brooklyn Bridge and enveloped neighborhoods out to Prospect Park. The New York Academy of Medicine has sponsored over a dozen studies of 9-11's health impacts, but none has included any of the 2.4 million Brooklyn residents except for fire-fighters and police officers who worked at Ground Zero. Even the $9-million air pollution study that Congress approved--but President Bush refused to sign--would study only Manhattan residents and Ground Zero workers. Asked why Brooklynites were excluded, staffers of bill sponsor Sen. Hillary Clinton said nobody from the borough had complained.
City Council member David Yassky, whose district covers the Brooklyn neighborhoods most densely hit by the plume in NASA images, was near a Park Slope polling place, campaigning in the primary being held that day, when the disaster hit. He told Newsday he saw an enormous black cloud descend on the neighborhood, then raced to his headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, three miles closer to Ground Zero. As he stepped out of his car, Yassky said he was immediately enveloped in dust. "There was a film of dust on everything--on cars, stores, everywhere in Brooklyn Heights. If you were there, as I was, you saw several hours of debris rain down on your neighborhood. When you think about where all the scientific studies and social services have focused, well, I'm stunned. It's kind of amazing that nobody analyzed the plume" before deciding how to focus the programs.
Between Sept. 11 and Dec. 14, when the flames at Ground Zero were finally extinguished, National Weather Service data indicate over 80% of the time winds carried the fumes along the same path observed on Sept. 11--directly across downtown Brooklyn and out toward Coney Island. "The data is beginning to materialize saying the most important area outside of lower Manhattan was Brooklyn," said environmental scientist Paul Lioy of Rutgers University, who heads a team of government and university scientists that is trying to determine precisely what was in the plume, and where it fell day by day. (Newsday, Aug. 23)
7. LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS BEAR BRUNT OF 9-11 IMPACTS
Beyond Ground Zero, a coalition of lower Manhattan community groups, marched on Washington July 31 to protest that post-9-11 aid to city residents discriminates against those who need it most. BGZ, representing several neighborhood groups in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, said that many residents who have been struggling to support their families since 9-11 do not meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency's requirements for a 25% drop in income to be eligible for aid. (Newsday, Aug. 1)
BGZ claims over 10,000 Chinatown garment workers lost their jobs in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and have not received any disaster assistance. They say federal relief policies have "robbed the poor and helped the rich" BGZ protests that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), established after 9-11 to oversee the rebuilding of downtown, "is promoting a $2.7 billion rebuilding proposal that addresses only the infrastructure of Lower Manhattan; its plan says nothing about rebuilding the lives of low-income workers and residents affected by the disaster." BGZ demands the government and Red Cross "expand the range and scope of existing relief efforts and set up a new relief program to provide living expenses to those who have suffered loss of health and income" in Chinatown and the LES. The coalition also demands the government provide "reparations for its cover-up of the toxic air. Aside from monetary compensation and immediate clean up of the environment, the government must established a medical institution to specialize in studying the effects of toxic air on people and in providing appropriate medical care." (BGZ press release, June 5)
An LMDC public hearing in May was packed with angry lower Manhattan residents. While they struggled to make ends meet, the government was handing out $500 million in cash grants to 145 big corporations as an inducement to stay in Manhattan. American Express accepted a grant of $25 million. Even funds slated for neighborhood residents have bypassed the neediest. Federal cash grants to residents offer the most to those who lived closest to the disaster site. So households in upscale Battery Park City and Tribeca--where the median household income is $125,000--are eligible for $14,500 in grants. Meanwhile, in Chinatown, where streets were also blocked after the disaster and garment factories shut down, household income is a third of that in Tribeca--yet families there are eligible for grants of only $7,750 maximum. In the part of Chinatown that extends north of Canal St., the figure is just $1,750. Said Vivian Williams, from the group Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES): "We're trying to get across that Lower Manhattan is not only the Ground Zero area. When this horrific act took place, we were also living in a war zone." (NYT, June 5)
A June 5 BGZ march from Chinatown to the Federal Building featured the traditional drums of a Korean American cultural troupe as a backbeat to chants of "F-E-M-A! FEMA's got to pay!" Signs read "Rebuild NYC=Rebuild Our Lives" and "Nuestra Salud, Si--Aire Toxico, No!" The march got particularly spirited as it passed the ad hoc FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building at Worth and Centre streets. Other favored chants were "They say clean up, we say cover-up!" and "Red Cross--Double-cross!" Trinn Duong of Chinese Staff and Workers, another BGZ member, told the crowd, "Lower Manhattan will not be rebuilt on the backs of the poor." (Bill Weinberg on the scene)
8. STUDY: NYC KIDS FREAKED OUT BY ATTACKS
A study released in May for the NYC Board of Education found that tens of thousands of public-school children were still experiencing chronic nightmares, fear of public places, severe anxiety and other psychological impacts months after the 9-11 attack. About 8,300 of the school system's 1.1 million students participated in the study, conducted in February and March under consultation of the federal Centers for Disease Control. A disproportionate number of the students surveyed attend schools near Ground Zero, but the study randomly evaluated kids in every city neighborhood. The study estimates 75,000 students in the 4th through 12th grades--some 10.5% of the total in those grades--suffered post-traumatic stress after 9-11. 107,395, or 15%, suffered agoraphobia, fear of public places. Schools Chancellor Harold Levy said many admitted a fear of riding public transit after the attack--a significant finding, since many students take buses or subways to school. "This is powerful information to help teachers, guidance counselors and others identify kids who are experiencing these symptoms and do what we can to reduce the severity of it," Levy said.
The study was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and conducted by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and a private firm, Applied Research and Consulting, which also examined the psychological impact of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing on building employees. Experts from New York University's Child Study Center and Yale University's Center for Children Exposed to Violence also took part. Although surveys of children as young as fourth grade are prone to error, Levy said he was convinced that the findings were legitimate, saying they were consistent with hundreds of anecdotes he has collected from teachers, principals and parents. The survey questions included whether students had thought about the disaster in recent weeks (76% yes); had problems falling or staying asleep (24% yes); had a lot of nightmares (17% yes); had tried hard not to think or talk about the attack (45% yes); had stopped going places or doing things that might remind them of the attack (18% yes). The study concluded that students who had at least six such symptoms--11% of participants--were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. (NYT, May 2)
9. HEROES GET SCREWED
Union officials charge that hundreds of fire trucks that responded to the World Trade Center attacks remain contaminated with potentially toxic dust, posing health risks to fire-fighters. While the Fire Department examined the 200 surviving rigs that were at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, only four were professionally decontaminated, FDNY officials acknowledged. The rest were deemed safe and put back into service. In contrast, the EPA ordered the destruction of 890 cars laced with asbestos from the destroyed towers. While the fire trucks, now used daily on emergency runs, have been scrubbed and appear nearly spotless from the outside, many of the rigs' engines, wiring and air-conditioning systems are coated in dust, firefighters said. "Our rig was parked on West St. right in front of the financial buildings and survived," said a Manhattan firefighter, who asked not to be named. "Every time we go on a run, it blows dust in our faces. It's not safe." Union officials are adamant that all of the roughly 500 fire vehicles used at Ground Zero--not just the trucks there on the first day--should be professionally cleaned. "This is a serious health issue," said Thomas Manley, health and safety officer of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "It's not being taken care of for one reason: money." (Daily News, May 15)
On Aug. 25, the New York Post reported that 93 fire trucks were still in use despite not having been fully decontaminated following 9-11. "Working firefighters continue to find debris fragments and spoonfuls of dust behind seat cushions, in hose compartments and in air-conditioning units of their rigs--some of it potentially toxic. Debris scooped from three professionally cleaned rigs was tested by a watchdog group, the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, and found to have unsafe levels of asbestos and Fiberglas, reports obtained by The Post show." The Post story also cited FDNY records that in the six months following 9-11, 332 firefighters required more than four weeks of leave for "significant" respiratory problems. About 60% of those remain on light duty or sick leave, or have retired.
Yet the same New York Post--always the first to invoke New York's fire-fighters as symbols of patriotism--dismissed their concerns in an Aug. 27 editorial sensitively entitled "EEK! ASBESTOS!" This is how the Post responded to demands for full decontamination by the Uniformed Firefighters Association:
"Ho, hum--here we go again... You find asbestos fibers on a firetruck? Squirt the rig with a fire-hose and guess what? The asbestos goes away. It's in apparatus seat cushions? Vacuum them. It's in the air conditioners? Change some filters. Problem solved." Claiming that the Environmental Law and Justice Project is up to "mischief," the editorial accused the UFA of "trad[ing] on 9-11 heroism... Maybe it's about creating a climate for a firefighters' pay raise. Maybe it's union faction-fighting. Or both. Either way, it's unseemly."
The New York fire-fighters who were lauded as heroes by media and politicians nationwide also had to go to court to get basic worker safety protections. In a May ruling that is expected to promote safer working conditions for the 17,000 fire-fighters in New York state, the State Supreme Court appellate division found that municipal governments are financially liable if a fire-fighter is injured as a result of conditions that violate regulations established by the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). "In this case, McGovern v. The City of New York, the firefighter was burned because his personal protective equipment did not meet OSHA standards," said attorney Mike Barasch. "The city argued and the lower court ruled that OSHA standards were irrelevant to deciding whether the employer is liable, which meant that employers could violate the standards without fear of significant financial consequences. This ruling finally makes it clear that fire departments in New York must comply with OSHA standards."
(NYCOSH update, May 17)
The Fire Department lost 343 in the 9-11 attack, but many more fire-fighters fell ill during the recovery effort, which officially ended May 30. An estimated one-fourth of the fire-fighters and emergency personnel at Ground Zero--or about 2,700 people--became sick, according to the Fire Department's own internal survey. Dr. Kerry Kelly, the Department's chief medical officer, told members of Congress in February that 25% of the department was reporting shortness of breath on exertion. Medical leaves had jumped two-fold, Kelly said, attributing the increase to a rise in respiratory problems and post-traumatic stress.
Attorney Barasch, who obtained the medical records of fire-fighters he represents, says over 100 who had been in tip-top shape are now at risk of fatal respiratory attacks if they continue in their current jobs. (Consumer Health Interactive, June 19)
For an archive of more than 250 documents and articles concerning the occupational and environmental health consequences of the 9-11 catastrophe, see the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) website.
10. FIRE-FIGHTERS PROTEST BUSH "STAB IN THE BACK"
The International Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously last month to boycott a national tribute to the fire-fighters who died on Sept. 11, in an angry protest of President Bush's veto of a $5.1 billion appropriations bill that included $340 million to fund the nation's 18,000 fire departments. Bush is expected to speak at the Oct. 6 ceremony in Washington DC, where the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation is hosting its annual tribute to those who died in the line of duty the previous year. Firefighters and survivors will be urged to skip the event, said R. Michael Mohler of the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters Local 774. Mohler made the boycott motion before some 2,000 union leaders convening in Las Vegas for the IAFF's first national conference since Sept. 11. "The president has merely been using fire-fighters and their families for one big photo opportunity," Mohler said. "We will work actively to not grant him another photo op with us." Added IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger: "Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one breath, and then stab us in the back by eliminating funding for our members to fight terrorism and stay safe. President Bush, you are either with us or against us. You can't have it both ways." (Reuters, Aug. 14)
11. COMPENSATION FUNDS MIRED IN CONTROVERSY
The families of two of the 23 New York police officers killed in the 9-11 attacks went to state court to demand that the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association provide a complete public accounting of the police union's post-disaster fundraising. The families accuse the PBA of withholding millions of dollars from the families of survivors. PBA's Joe Maccone countered that attorney Edward Hayes is "using the families." (Newsday, July 24)
Federal and state officials are demanding that the American National Red Cross open its books and provide a precise breakdown of how post-9-11 donations were spent--prompting Red Cross chair David McLaughlin to announce new policies assuring that "donor intent" is honored. The move came following months of criticism that the Red Cross did not immediately distribute the hundreds of millions of dollars it raised in donations following 9-11. (NYT, June 5)
But the most notorious controversy has surrounded the Twin Towers Fund established by then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the attacks to compensate the families of the 430 fire-fighters, police and rescue workers killed in the disaster. When Giuliani finally agreed to release the $100 million in donations for distribution, the New York Times applauded the move in a Feb. 28 editorial, saying it "defuses an embarrassing confrontation that threatened to sour the positive note on which Mr. Giuliani ended his mayoralty." Giuliani insisted on maintaining control of the fund even after he left office at the end of 2001, packed the fund's board with his girlfriend and close associates, and then said the funds would only be released to beneficiaries over a period of years--leading many to smell a rat. The Times spoke for many when it wrote that "under no circumstances should the fund be allowed to evolve into a base for Mr. Giuliani's future political ambitions or provide long-term employment for his cronies. The fund should have only one purpose, charity, and a modest life span."
On June 6, the NY Observer reported that long-time Giuliani crony and political adviser Bruce Teitelbaum was floating the rumor that "he'll be the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee in 2004." The source--an anonymous "political operartive"--also said Teitelbaum "thinks Giuliani is going to be running in 2008 for president."
While Giuliani was hailed as a national hero after 9-11, and even made Time magazine's "man of the year," his two-term administration was characterized by unprecedented citizen protests in response to a wave of police brutality, torture and homicides.
See WW3 REPORT #21
12. IMMIGRANT WORKERS: HIDDEN VICTIMS
Hundreds of anonymous workers--mostly immigrants--who labored outside the media spotlight to clean up toxic debris in downtown Manhattan suffered health risks without the consolation of being lauded as heroes. A study released in April found that over 400 immigrant workers hired to clean buildings near the World Trade Center site continued to suffer respiratory and other symptoms months after their first exposure to the dust. Dr. Steven Markowitz of Queens College, who supervised a medical monitoring van near Ground Zero from January to March, gave preliminary results of examinations of 415 building cleanup workers. The mobile health unit was a joint project of Queens College's Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH) and the Latin American Workers Project. The van's medical staff offered free health examinations, including breathing tests, blood and urine analysis, and interviews about work history. In late February, nearly all the workers still had health symptoms, which either first appeared or worsened after Sept. 11, Markowitz said.
"One of the most striking findings is the persistence in symptoms, even after they stopped work and were no longer exposed to dust," Markowitz said at an immigrant labor conference at CUNY Law School in Flushing. "Many had stopped working [near Ground Zero] two months earlier, and when they came to the van, they still had symptoms."
Of the 415 people examined, almost all were immigrants, mainly from Colombia and Ecuador. Virtually none had health insurance or a personal physician. In interviews, workers said they received no protective equipment before being sent in with mops, rags and bags to remove inches of dust that coated floors, walls and furniture. Symptoms included chronic cough, coughing up of blood, sore throat, nasal congestion and chest pain. The respiratory symptoms are attributed to crushed glass in the dust. More puzzling symptoms include headache, fatigue, dizziness and poor appetite. "We have no idea what substance in the dust is causing that," Markowitz said. (Newsday, April 28)
See also WW3 REPORT #16
Center for the Biology of Natural Systems.
13. BLOOMBERG: 9-11 RECORDS TO STAY SECRET
The administration of Mayor Mike Bloomberg has determined that audio and written records of the Fire Department's actions on Sept. 11 should never be released to the public. In response to a lawsuit filed in state court by the New York Times, administration officials argue that a federal court order in Virginia bars them from releasing much of the material, citing its value in the government's case against accused "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. But the administration says that even if the order were lifted, they would still not release the audio-tapes of Fire Department dispatchers, hundreds of individual accounts of fire-fighters, and transcripts of radio communications from Sept. 11--claiming release would be an invasion of privacy for the families of those killed in the attacks. The administration also maintains that that because the requested information involves "interagency" communication, it is exempt from the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
Legal documents filed by Michael A. Cardozo, the city's counsel, read: "The records requested by the Times were compiled for law enforcement purposes. Second, both the oral histories and the radio transmissions, especially the 911 calls, contain highly personal and emotionally charged material. Victims were recorded as they were experiencing life-threatening circumstances, in some instances as they were dying." When he was appointed by the incoming Bloomberg administration, Cardozo said the new administration would be more responsive to media requests for documents and records than outgoing Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had been.
The Times argues that the Moussaoui order binds only the prosecution and defense--not municipal agencies--and that the case against Moussaoui would not be compromised by release. Wrote David E. McCraw, a lawyer for the Times: "The disclosures would not interfere with law enforcement, they do not reveal intimate personal details that someone should reasonably think should be secret, or constitute formal advice. These are documents that have huge historical and policy value for the city as a whole. They are the accounts of exactly how that operation worked from the ground level. That is precisely the kind of thing FOIL is designed to make public."
The administration claims that fire-fighters were promised confidentiality when they gave their accounts, and that to release them would violate that guarantee. The Times contends the Fire Department has failed to prove that any promise of confidentiality was made, and that senior Department officials were compiling the accounts to create a historical record. In a December interview with a reporter about the oral histories, Assistant Chief Salvatore J. Cassano, then FDNY chief of operations, said: "What we are trying to do is capture the events of the day through the eyes of the firefighters who were at the scene. It's for historical purposes." Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former senior FDNY official denied that fire-fighters were told their interviews would be kept confidential. "The histories are more than for historical purposes," he said. "They are of great value to understanding what happened there. I tend to think that people should be able to see them." ( NYT, July 23)
14. CONTROVERSY OVER MISSING DEBRIS
Federal officials announced a new two-year $32 million investigation last month into why the twin towers collapsed. The new study, to be led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), replaces an earlier study led by FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers which had come under harsh criticism. The new investigation may be no more effective--for instance, it has not yet been granted subpoena power. "I would use it if I had it," NIST director Arden Bement Jr. said of subpoena power, although he added that the Port Authority and other agencies had pledged to cooperate in the probe. But neither agency cooperation nor subpoena power may do much good. At the press conference announcing the new investigation at DC-area university, Bement stood before a platform-mounted chunk of twisted steel from the destroyed towers--a critical piece of evidence, coming from just below the gash produced by one of the exploding jets. The specimen had been found in a scrap yard in May--long after most of the steel from the destroyed towers had been chopped up and sold to recyclers. (NYT, Aug. 22)
See also WW3 REPORT #s 15 and 17
15. WTC BIOGRAPHER: MEGA-DEVELOPERS REFLECT TERRORISTS
Eric Darton, author of the 1999 book Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York's World Trade Center, spoke about the meaning of the twin towers--as landmark and as terrorist target--in a January 2000 interview on the website of his publisher, Basic Books. "I wanted to explore the idea that certain world-recognized architectural symbols are a mass medium in their own right, like TV or the movies or the web... [T]he WTC's builders had touted it as a paradigm of the coming information age way back in the early 1960s--the first buildings of the 21st Century' they called it. Then in February 1993, when I was a little less than a year into my research, the trade center was bombed, killing six people and injuring over 1,000. A horrifying event that changed the way we look at our high-rise cities. For all that, it amounted to a lucky near miss compared to the carnage the bombers had intended. From that point out, it was clear that I was working on a bigger story than I'd realized."
From its inception as the grandiose vision of the brothers David and Nelson Rockefeller--then respectively New York's biggest banker and the state governor--the World Trade Center represented an erosion of democracy. Says Darton:
"At bottom the story of the building of the WTC is a tale of how New York's power-brokers hijacked a public agency, the Port Authority, to build a massive real estate speculation. Their goal was to use the Trade Center as leverage to expand lower Manhattan's financial district--in which they were heavily invested--while driving up property values throughout the whole area. It is hard to imagine a more blatant instance of entrenched power and wealth circumventing--and in fact, subverting--the democratic process. So the WTC can also be looked at as a monument to the abuse of public trust."
Darton draws a parallel between mega-developers and the terrorists who seek to destroy their creations:
"Digging into the historical material of the trade towers revealed some quite scary psychological similarities between the men who built the WTC and the terrorists who tried bring it down thirty years later. First of all, whether we like it or not, the modern skyscraper city, along with the suburbs that rings it, represents the corporatization of the metropolis. It is a city engineered and built for finance, not for people. From the late 1940s through the '70s, the urban renewal movement, operating under the banner of 'slum clearance,' flattened American cities and displaced populations at a rate comparable to that of the devastation caused by World War II in Europe... In 1958, David Rockefeller offered a Billion Dollar Plan for the renewal of Lower Manhattan. His language speaks volumes about his philosophy. He believed above all in the rightness of what he called 'catalytic bigness.' Had Rockefeller and [NYC development czar Robert] Moses succeeded 100%, there would be nothing but highways and slab high-rises from Washington Square Park down to the Battery today. The WTC--which, incidentally, cost a billion dollars and change to build--is the great monument to their vision.
"Their extremism at the level of planning was eventually countered by another, far messier and single-minded scheme to change the face of Lower Manhattan. In this case the idea wasn't to level outmoded neighborhoods with the idea of building them up taller and more profitably than before - the notion was simply to lay waste. But one kind of extremism, unfortunately, begets another, and when you raise up an icon like the WTC and fill it with vulnerable humanity--it's a pretty sure bet that someone will try to bring it down if they can. What emerges when you juxtapose mega-development with terrorism is a kind of unity of opposites. Both master-builders and terrorists consider everyday life at street level to be absolutely trivial. The former carry out make their plans the rarefied air of executive boardrooms; while the latter carry out their schemes, quite literally, underground.
"Both master-builders and bombers adhere to single-minded cataclysmic visions--either the creation of a bright, corporate future; or a return to the 'fundamental' values of the past. Both visions are abstract projections of an ideal world... But the most frightening aspect of these men is that they appear incapable of connecting their actions with real world consequences for other living, breathing human beings. To them, people are insubstantial--the plan is what is real. When you think like this, whether one is a futurist or a fundamentalist, it becomes possible--even desirable--to push aside whomever and whatever gets in your way... One grants oneself a monopoly on truth, and no amount of reality-checking can challenge it."
In Darton's view, the ethic of "bigness for bigness' sake" mandates the same kind of insensitivity to human life that characterizes terrorism:
"For example, a few weeks ago the manager of the WTC told a newspaper reporter that the best way to imagine the twin towers is as three regular skyscrapers stacked on top of one another. He stopped short of saying, 'then you go ahead stack another three right next to it.' It was pretty stunning. This man is a Port Authority official charged with protecting 40,000 lives, and he was talking about the world's most massive inhabited vertical structures as though they were a big Lego toy. One thing I ask myself a lot is what sort of story we'd be telling ourselves about urban life if, say, thirty or fifty thousand people had died in Lower Manhattan one snowy noontime seven years ago?"
In the wake of the 1993 attack, Darton already saw how the meaning of the WTC had changed:
"One result of the bombing is that we've now got a twin mind to go along with our twin towers. While one part of our awareness still sees them as overawing symbols of modern engineering technology, the other part sees how in an unprotected instant, the whole edifice of modernity can come down around our ears."
16. REBUILDING LOWER MANHATTAN: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Writing in the May 22 Village Voice, Andrew Friedman decries the lack of transparency at the public agency charged with charting the post-9-11 reconstruction of lower Manhattan. "The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) has released nothing but vague documents. Yet architect David Childs, of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), presented plans last week for the first building on the site, a typical glassy skyscraper at 7 World Trade Center. In some quarters then, plans are breeding. But if consensus exists, one wonders, who exactly has agreed upon what?"
Friedman notes an historical irony: "Some may be surprised that a plan strikingly similar to the one guiding the LMDC was submitted to the mayor some time ago. Drafted by downtown business tycoons through the mouthpiece currently known as the Downtown Alliance--with help from the same architects, Skidmore Owings & Merrill--the plan warned that firms would abandon the city unless officials swiftly built more commercial space and new rail connections, deported the Fulton Fish market, and relocated manufacturers in favor of residents downtown. The residents could 'stimulate the development of shopping facilities, restaurants, places of entertainment...which would prove highly desirable for use by the daytime working population as well.' Sound familiar? That plan came out October 14, 1958. It was part of David Rockefeller's attempt to bolster land values near his new Chase Manhattan Plaza." Marveling at how little has changed, Friedman writes that "the Downtown Alliance and SOM are still leading the charge."
Seeking an alternative vision, Friedman points to the new anthology
the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City (Taylor & Francis, 2002). Contributor Andrew Ross calls for the re-emergence of the "parochial neighborhood" of the pre-global city. Scholar Moustafa Bayoumi describes the "constellation" of small shops that defined Little Syria--the area which was displaced by the WTC. Historian Jack Tchen recalls the "port culture" which built New York--before the port facilities moved to New Jersey and Manhattan was relegated to high finance. "By all this." writes Friedman, "they mean the multiethnic city, the arriving-on-boats-and-selling-your-wares city, the mosaic city, the accidental-interactions city, the human-scale city, the mixed-use and mixed-income city, the free city."
Now the LMDC is poised to complete the work of Rockefeller, who in 1958 dismissed the neighborhoods and economies of the old city as "inefficient," "a source of infection" and "undesirable." Concludes Friedman: "Urban renewal was always a gambit to reclaim the core from the poor. The '90s boom accelerated this initiative. The rebuilding effort could be its endgame maneuver." The final cultural cleansing of Manhattan would entail "the moving of the fish market to the Bronx, the unceasing gentrification of Harlem, Washington Heights, Hell's Kitchen, and the Lower East Side, the shuttering of Chinatown's garment factories, the assault on the community gardens, the city disposition programs that hustle public land into private hands, the gleaming Olympic dreams on the West Side, the East Harlem mall, the assault on Upper West Side SROs, the creep of Columbia and NYU, the Mitchell-Lama buyouts, and the ever hungry 'new Times Square.' If the rebuilders of Lower Manhattan do not now implement provisions to foster economic and social diversity, their project will only be the jewel in the crown of this new White City... A jingoistic 'Freedom Park,' rather than the more self-reflexive memorial warranted by September 11, will provide slim consolation."
17. LOWER MANHATTAN DEVELOPMENT CORP: WHO'S IN CHARGE?
New York Gov. George Pataki and then-NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced creation of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC) to oversee the rebuilding of lower Manhattan last November. The new authority is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency, and is governed by a nine-member board of directors. After an acrimonious turf war between city and state authorities, it was determined that the governor will appoint six members, while the mayor will appoint the other three. The agency also has an advisory committee comprised of business, labor, and community leaders. "This will be the entity that drives the train of lower Manhattan redevelopment," Pataki promised. It was not specified whether the new authority would have the power to issue bonds, but investment for the reconstruction effort is a vital concern. The New York City Council placed the damage at $6.7 billion for buildings located on or near the WTC site, but the cost of rebuilding is expected to soar much higher. "The creation of the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corp. [sic] will provide the kind of broad-based coalition required for the speedy redevelopment of lower Manhattan," Giuliani said. (Bond Buyer, Nov. 5)
The Pataki-appointed LMDC chairman is former Reagan administration deputy secretary of state John C. Whitehead. (NYT, March 7) The board named former Pataki secretary Louis Tomson president. (Newsday, Jan. 11) In April, when the LMDC issued a call for redevelopment proposals, the NY-NJ Port Authority--which actually owns the site--protested it had not been consulted. Two weeks later, the PA issued its own call--officially in "in cooperation with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation." But the NYT wrote that it "made clear that the Port Authority was driving the plans for the site." (NYT, April 24) Just before the LMCD was scheduled to release its first round of redevelopment proposals to the public, Gov. Pataki made the surprise announcement, "We will never build where the towers stood"--unwelcome news to the PA and its leaseholder. (NYT, July 2) In this atmosphere of nearly choreographed acrimony, LMDC president Tomson announced that the redevelopment would have to expand beyond the 16 acres where the WTC stood--and that his planners were considering adding an additional 16 blocks to the redevelopment area. Tomson shrewdly posed himself as peacemaker: With that extra space, he argued, "We can plan to accommodate the needs of the Port Authority, the wishes of the community and the mayor, the memorial., cultural institutions, residences an retail space." (NYT, June 20)
The New York Times editorialized July 17: "After months of planning behind closed doors, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation released six draft proposals yesterday for rebuilding the World Trade Center site... dreary, leaden proposals that fall far short of what New York City--and the world--expect to see rise at ground zero. The restrictions on the designers included a requirement that the site be packed with a full 11 million square feet of office space, 600,000 square feet of retail space and another 600,000 square feet for a hotel. The result was, in the main, several variations on the theme of a park hemmed in by a bunch of very large commercial buildings... The public will never be satisfied with any redevelopment that contains as much commercial space as the site did before Sept. 11. Despite all the talk about a downtown that would be alive 24 hours a day with cultural institutions, entertainment and residential developments, these features, which make an urban area live and breathe, are missing. Instead there is office space, far more of it than the city is likely to need in the foreseeable future, and enough large-scale construction to keep the entire neighborhood in chaos for decades... [N]othing memorable can be done in Lower Manhattan if the Port Authority insists on reclaiming every inch of commercial space that it controlled before Sept. 11. The world, as we are reminded every day, is a different place."
The pseudo-populist New York Post took the opposite position, boasting on the cover of its July 14 edition that "half" (actually 48%) of the 609 New Yorkers polled by the paper favored rebuilding the twin towers--all 110 floors. Official plans call for nothing over 60 stories to be built on the site, but the Post aggressively plugs a non-profit "Team Twin Towers" that advocates for a faithful return to the status quo ante. The Team is enlisting celebrity support: comedian David Brenner and actor Paul Rodriguez, who opined: "Build them big, build them high, build them tall enough to scrape the sky." A still cruder proposal from the tabloid came in a July 18 "Page Six" editorial cartoon showing urban planners examining a sketch of a skyscraper shaped like a middle-finger "fuck-you" gesture. One says, "Now this is an interesting WTC design. I assume it'll be facing the Mideast."
Larry Silverstein, leaseholder on the WTC site, is a thorny issue no matter how plans proceed. Silverstein is now considering a plan to trade the site from the Port Authority to the City in exchange for La Guardia and Kennedy airports--which are now owned by the City but run by the PA. This would give the City more control over the redevelopment plan but leaves open the question of how to handle Silverstein's 99-year lease--signed just weeks before 9-11. (Bond Buyer, Aug. 7) Silverstein, meanwhile, doesn't intend to wait for any cumbersome public process before moving ahead on plans for rebuilding his privately-owned 7 World Trade Center, which was also destroyed on 9-11. In December he announced he has hired architects David Childs and T.J. Gottesdiener, partners in the firm Skidmore Owens Merrill (SOM), to start charting reconstruction. (Newsday, Dec, 13)
The turf wars are unlikely to interfere with elite consensus on using the 9-11 disaster to complete the cultural cleansing of Manhattan. At an officially "public" meeting last month--called on just 24-hour notice--the state Housing Finance Agency approved $300 million in tax-exempt bonds for construction of three luxury apartment buildings at locations ringing Ground Zero--two in the Battery Park City landfill-development and one on Liberty St. Only 5% of the apartments in the three new developments are pegged as "affordable." "Considering the economic climate, the program needs to create an incentive to developers," said Edward Skyler, Mayor Bloomberg's press secretary, referring to the 5% allocation. Fumed Margaret Hughes, an affordable housing advocate with the community group Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) as she left the meeting: "It's just a sham." (Newsday Aug. 8)
The six LMDC proposals are on line
18. FORGOTTEN HISTORY: WTC DISPLACED "LITTLE SYRIA"
The Museum of the City of New York just ended a special exhibit entitled "A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City." Exhibit manager Kathy Benson said the exhibit was four years in the making, and that the terrorist attacks strengthened the resolve of the museum and consulting team of local Arab Americans. "We knew that we had to get across our educational message that Arab-Americans are among the oldest and the newest New Yorkers," Benson said. "Arab-Americans are in the fabric of life in New York City." She said 9-11 only prompted the museum to enlarge the exhibit and move it to the main hall. In an interview with the US State Department's Information Service, she recounted how the city's Arab community grew from the 1840 arrival of Ahmed bin Nauman bin Muhsin al-K'Abi Al-Bahraini, emissary of the Sultan of Zanzibar, to engage in spice trade negotiations with New York businessmen. A portrait of the emissary still hangs in New York's City Hall. Immigrants followed the spice trade in the 1880s, according to the exhibit. The lower west side of Manhattan became the "mother colony" of all the Arab communities eventually established in the US, Benson said. The exhibit included photos of Arab peddler women who hawked their goods in Washington Market, the neighborhood that came to be known as "Little Syria," winning a reputation for vigorous commercial activity.
Benson didn't mention it, but the web site Lost New York reveals that the "Washington Market District spanned from Fulton north to Beach Streets, west of Greenwich Street, West Broadway, and Hudson Street"--in other words, adjacent to (and partially incorporating) what would later be the World Trade Center site. (A small remnant survives as Washington Market Park, four blocks north of the WTC site and across West St. from Stuyvesant HS.) The website provides an image of the local commerce that existed on the site before the icons of global commerce were erected: "A series of city-run structures containing stalls called the Washington Market operated more or less continually from 1812 to 1956 at Fulton and Washington Streets, but the surrounding area was filled with specialty merchants who made up small, separate sub-districts." What was once the intersection of Fulton and Washington is now part of Ground Zero. Little Syria was squeezed out just as the Rockefeller alliance unveiled the Lower Manhattan development plan that would lead to the World Trade Center. (When construction started on the WTC in 1966, the site was a warren of small electronics-goods shops, many immigrant-owned.)
19. DON'T REBUILD IT!
In WW3 REPORT #11, we reported on a proposal by the New York Psychogeographical Association (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a giant community garden to be established at Ground Zero in place of new office towers. Development would be overseen by Adam Purple, the creator and principle cultivator of the Garden of Eden--an "earthwork" of concentric circles forming a giant Tao symbol of flowers, trees and corn which covered a Lower East Side lot until it was bulldozed by the city to make way for a housing project in 1986. The Garden of Eden--like many "unofficial" gardens around the city--represented a radically different development model than those proffered by the bureaucracy. The Garden of Eden was in neither the "public" (government) nor private sector, nor under the auspices of hybrid entities such as the LMDC--it was built directly by the local community, under the initiative of a local resident, Mr. Purple. It revived the idea that unused private or government lands must return to the commons, to be worked and shaped by the local inhabitants. It was also circular, a conscious effort to start breaking down the grid system in favor of a more humane environment.
Contacted on the Lower East Side by WW3 REPORT, Adam Purple, who has recently become homeless, responded, "I'll work for free--a dollar a year to be head gardener. I don't need $100,000 a year to do what I did on Eldridge Street."
One of the few parallels to this idea in the United States is Berkeley's People's Park, started by anti-war protesters on unused University of California land in 1969, and now officially under a policy of "user development."
But the recent deal under which Lower East Side squatters--who 20 years ago started reclaiming abandoned city-owned buildings--have become legal home-owners indicates that the institutionalization of development-from-below can work in no-nonsense New York as well as flaky California.
(See "Squatters' Rites" by Robert Neuwirth in the Sept./Oct. City Limits; and "Better Homes and Squatters: New York's Outlaw Homesteaders Earn the Right to Stay" by Sarah Ferguson in the Aug. 28-Sept. 3 Village Voice)
Another example is the Socrates Sculpture Park on the Queens waterfront, which was an abandoned riverside landfill and illegal dumpsite until 1986, when a coalition of local artists and community members, under the leadership of artist Mark di Suvero, transformed it into an open studio and exhibition space. Today it is officially a city park, but still serves as a community-run outdoor museum and artist residency program. It is an oasis of greenery and creativity that contrasts vividly with the impersonal and alienating Citicorp office tower a mile to the south--the first skyscraper to jump the East River to Queens.
On the anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster, WW3 REPORT officially endorses the call for a user-developed community garden on the site of the twin towers, under the direction of Adam Purple, who has already demonstrated his vision, dedication and ability. This is the only model which honors the dead by creating a peaceful and contemplative environment, and out-maneuvers any future terrorist designs on the site by rejecting the hubris of a new monument to American power. Who ever heard of terrorists targeting a garden?
Development of the new Garden of Eden at the WTC site can be seen as a continuation of the work spontaneously undertaken by city residents at Union Square in the immediate aftermath of the attack. For weeks following Sept. 11, 2001, New Yorkers gathered daily at Union Square, erecting myriad shrines and memorials. The park became an ongoing vigil, forum and sanctuary for the citizens, tolerated--but not controlled--by city authorities. Then, Mayor Giuliani decided enough was enough, and cleared out the shrines and memorials, returning the park to "normal." But the episode points to the potential for redevelopment of the WTC site to make a real statement about world peace--and what democracy might look like in a city (and planet) returned to the human scale. (See WW3 REPORT #7)
We understand the concerns of environmentalists who have acceded to development of new office towers at the WTC site because they fear expansion of open space in Lower Manhattan will mean new skyscrapers going up in Queens and Brooklyn. But those battles will have to be fought anyway. And any new skyscraper development--whether in Manhattan or the outer boroughs--will accelerate gentrification and displacement. We reject all such calls. We call upon our fellow New Yorkers to demand that Ground Zero be redeveloped on three principles: permanent open space, user development and a sense of contemplative dignity befitting hallowed ground.
Adam Purple can be contacted through his website.
20. THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
"The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions.
"All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."
Here Is New York, 1949
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