2007-02-22 / From The Mayor...

From The Mayor's Desk ...

Our Commitment To World Trade Center Rescue Workers

New York has always taken care of its own - and we owe a special commitment to the rescue workers and others who heroically served our city during its darkest hour, and to all those who were caught in the dust cloud that hovered over downtown. Today, unfortunately, some of them are suffering from World Trade Center-related health problems. That's why in September, I convened a panel to conduct a comprehensive investigation of these health issues, and to determine what more can be done to help those who are sick. Last week, the group completed its report and suggested three strategies to ensure a coordinated, citywide approach. I'm adopting those strategies in their entirety.

The first is designed to ensure that those who are ill get the best possible medical care. The FDNY, Bellevue Hospital, and Mount Sinai Medical Center already run high-quality programs to evaluate and treat 9/11-related conditions. The NYPD is also closely monitoring its members who responded to the collapse. But the truth is that these essential programs face a very uncertain future without a sustained commitment of Federal funds. It will cost $150 million annually to sustain and expand them after this year - and because 9/11 was an attack on America, not just New York, we will work to ensure that the Federal government assumes this responsibility.

The second strategy is to use the latest medical research to enhance our care. Researchers and doctors - including those who work on the Health Department's World Trade Center Health Registry - are continually making important new discoveries about the health effects of 9/11. That's why we will form a group of scientists and medical experts who will stay on top of the science, and make sure it's communicated throughout our city's public and private health systems. We will also appoint a World Trade Center health coordinator to operate a clearinghouse of information for residents, workers, and first responders - which will all be posted on a new, user-friendly website.

The third part of our strategy is resolving the issue of fair compensation. The City is currently defending itself from claims arising from the recovery and clean-up operations. This litigation for all parties is costly, inefficient, and ultimately distracts the City from our primary mission of giving real help to those in need. Instead, the process of compensation should be removed from the courts - and the best way to do that is by re-opening the Victim Compensation Fund, which fairly provided financial assistance to the families of those killed or injured on 9/11.

To get this fund up and running again, Washington should eliminate the litigation against the City and its contractors and permit us to use the $1 billion which was set aside in 2003 to protect the City against World Trade Center legal claims. Taking these matters out of the courts and using this money to help people is an important step in healing the rifts that have surfaced since 9/11.

I will make this case when I testify next month before the U.S. Senate. And I will work with our city's Congressional delegation to make sure that we receive the Federal funding we need. On September 11th, 2001, our city's rescue workers inspired the nation. And that heroism was followed by a wave of residents, workers, and others who helped lift our city - and our country - back onto its feet. The government now has a clear responsibility to them that it must meet. We are doing our part - and we must ensure that the Feds do theirs.

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