Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
New Yorkers to GOP Don't
Breathe the Air
By Sunny Lewis, Environment News
Service, August 27, 2004
As conventioneers arrive, demonstrators at
the World Trade Center site are holding a daily vigil to inform the nation that the area
is still contaminated with toxics spread when the buildings collapsed.
The Republican Convention opens in New
York on Monday with the theme of "building a safer world." But at the site where
the World Trade Center Towers once stood, demonstrators are holding a daily vigil to
inform the nation that the area is still contaminated with toxics spread when the
buildings collapsed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The event is sponsored by the Sierra Club,
9/11 Environmental Action, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, and
New York Environmental Law & Justice Project.
"While the country is focused on the
city during the Republican Convention, we want to make sure that New York's real story is
told," said Suzanne Mattei, Sierra Club's New York City executive.
"President Bush needs to hear the
stories of those who were not protected in the aftermath of September 11th and take action
now to meet their needs, and to protect those who would be put in harm's way at future
The 2004 Republican National Convention
will be held for the first time in New York City at Madison Square Garden from August 30
to September 2. The city is alive with anti-Republican demonstrations of every type and
description, but the one at Ground Zero speaks directly to the Republicans' stated theme
of "Fulfilling America's Promise by Building a Safer World and a More Hopeful
Participants will gather daily on the
corner of Liberty and Broadway one block from Ground Zero, to hand out stickers that say
"I support the Ground Zero Community. Toxic Cleanup, Health Care, &
Answers." Each day will honor and advocate on behalf of a different constituency of
the Ground Zero community.
Today the demonstration advocates on
behalf of people who worked near Ground Zero, the hole left by the collapse of the World
Trade Center (WTC) towers when they were struck by two hijacked airplanes, killing nearly
3,000 people and sickening thousands more..
"Thousands of workers are sick today
as a result of the respiratory hazards caused by the attack on the World Trade Center
(WTC). The government agencies that had the responsibility of protecting them failed to do
so. We must make certain that such a failure never occurs again," said Jonathan
Bennett, spokesperson for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health.
Many of the demonstrators say that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed them by not disclosing the true extent of the
contamination and by not providing them with the tools to clean their homes, offices and
even their firehouses.
"It's ironic that EPA refused to
clean the firehouses downtown, that the firefighters were forced to clean up their own
WTC-contaminated stations without even having the proper equipment to do so. These are the
same fire stations that protect Wall Street and all of the government buildings in lower
Manhattan," said Joel Kupferman, New York Environmental Law & Justice Project and
Environmental Counsel to the Uniformed Firefighters Association (NYC).
On Saturday, the Ground Zero demonstration
will honor local residents and parents, and on Sunday the difficulties of small business
owners will be in the spotlight.
Ariel Goodman, president of From the
Ground Up, an organization representing small businesses, said, "Shortly after the
tragic events of September 11th, we were told that the air was safe. Not only did the
EPA's misinformation put our health in jeopardy, it was used by insurance companies to
deny coverage for damage."
"The federal government should step
up to the plate and do testing and cleaning not only in residences but also in businesses
which were completely left out of its program. Also, the small business owners who
were exposed should be included in the medical monitoring program. Right now, we're
excluded," Goodman said.
The situation is no better for unionized
employees. Bob Gulack, union steward with the National Treasury Employees Union, which
represents federal employees in 30 agencies and departments, said, "It is now three
years since Al Qaeda attacked us and EPA is still refusing to clean up the lethal
contamination left behind by the original terrorist attack."
"As a union steward, I have seen the
suffering of my colleagues in our contaminated office building, and I have personally
suffered repeated bronchitis and pneumonia and have been left with permanent lung
damage," said Gulack. "As matters now stand, the EPA's plan for cleaning up the
WTC dust is to have the people of NYC inhale the dust into their lungs."
On Monday, when the Republican Convention
opens several miles north in Madison Square Garden, the Ground Zero demonstration will
honor the cleanup workers and employees of a local community college. On Tuesday, the
spotlight will be on the Transport Union Workers who labored to clean Ground Zero, and on
Wednesday, the stories of volunteer rescue, recovery and cleanup workers will be featured.
The Republican Convention has a Ground
Zero spokesperson too, but she will not be at the demonstration. New York delegate Lolita
Jackson was in a business meeting on the 70th floor of Tower Two when the first plane
crashed into the World Trade Center. Currently, she serves on the board of New York's
Children's Aid Society finding homes for city orphans.
Kimberly Flynn, spokesperson, 9/11
Environmental Action said, "The September 11th attack was a time when the people of
New York City needed to depend on their government as never before, for their safety and
security and this administration failed them."
"People who live and work downtown
were put in harm's way by being told the air was safe and by being denied a proper
cleanup; many of them who now suffer serious health effects have nowhere to turn. They
have an important message for the president. Mr. Bush, you need to fix what went wrong in
New York right now," Flynn said.
"If there is another terrorist attack
here or anywhere which fills the air with dangerous substances, Americans
must not be lied to and left in the dust as they were here in New York."
Read the Sierra Club report, 'Air
Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero How the Bush Administration's Reckless Disregard of
9/11 Toxic Hazards Poses Long-term Threats for New York City and the Nation'
Sunny Lewis is editor-in-chief of
Environment News Service, an independently owned, continuous, real-time wire service
covering the environment.
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