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Allocation Frustrates NYC
By Heather Moyer,
Disaster News Network, March 18, 2005
NEW YORK CITY Community groups in New York City are frustrated about where the federal
governments post-Sept. 11 restoration and recovery funds are going.
New York Gov. George Pataki placed the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) in
charge of distributing $2.7 billion from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development earmarked for revitalization and restoration of Manhattan post-Sept. 11.
Community groups are continuing to urge the LMDC to focus the remaining $850 million in
cash grants on unmet needs they say have been ignored.
A coalition of community groups including New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS),
9/11 Environmental Action, Labor Community Advocacy Network, Latin American Workers
Project, and many others, held a forum on Wednesday night entitled "Without a
Trace." The forums aim was to allow community members to speak out about where
the money should go, as well as voice their frustrations about being ignored.
"There is general frustration and anger from these groups and people who are feeling
left out of the process," said Daniel Bush, director of disaster recovery and victim
advocacy for NYDIS. He said he didnt believe the LMDC has been transparent about the
Bush said most of the community organizations feel that the money has gone "to the
higher end" instead of to people who most need assistance. The coalition of
organizations agrees that the focus of funds should be on affordable housing,
environmental health and employment.
"Much of the conversation (Wednesday night) was around housing. So far the money has
mostly gone to higher-end housing which just makes housing constraints worse,"
The health issue involves the toxic cloud of dust that enveloped Manhattan and other
boroughs on Sept. 11, contaminating offices and residences. Ground Zero workers and
Manhattan residents and employees report they are suffering from health problems tied to
the dust, which has been shown to include such toxins as asbestos and lead.
Groups like NYDIS have been helping sickened employees and residents with basic needs,
such as rent payments or transportation. The only current screening for Ground Zero health
issues is for people who worked at the site, and not those who live or work in the general
area. Beyond that, there is no funding for treatment of the sick workers.
"Wed like to see needs addressed on a systemic level not just treating
the symptoms like were doing," noted Bush, who said religious groups and
community coalitions have limited assistance money.
The LMDC defends its distribution of the funds thus far, citing a residential grant
program set up in 2002, as well as one funded proposal for affordable housing. Funds have
also gone toward incentives to keep businesses in lower Manhattan, creating community
parks, promoting tourism, and creating a Ground Zero historical campaign, said LMDC
spokesperson Joanna Rose.
The corporation is also defending its public input process, with Rose saying that LMDC
held numerous public hearings and allowed for significant public input to the funding
"Every single step of the way theres been public engagement," said Rose.
"We welcome input. We are working out now what future opportunities there will be for
For the remaining money, Rose added that the LMDC is looking at what the priorities are
and reaching out to the public for ideas.
Yet no LMDC representatives attended the Wednesday forum, despite being invited, said
Bush. Some members of the faith communities in attendance said the evening was another
powerful reminder that many are still struggling to recover.
"It was a very inspiring and moving event," said Rabbi Jonathan Glass of New
York Citys Synagogue for the Arts. "We saw and heard stories of significant
hardship. There is a definite desire for access to money earmarked for people in need who
are not getting it."
Glass is a member of a clergy group working with NYDIS to put more pressure on the LMDC
about fund distribution and public input. "We lend a moral voice in a way that only
clergy can do," explained Glass, who also noted that every community group involved
has shown incredible commitment and resolve.
The organizers of Wednesdays gathering said they were pleased with the results.
"It was a wonderful event and we were very proud to be participating in it,"
said Kimberly Flynn of 9/11 Environmental Action. "It was a celebration of the
diverse and interconnected communities of lower Manhattan. Folks who attended represented
every area in lower Manhattan, from river to river."
Flynn said the forums attendees and speakers asserted that LMDC-distributed funds
are the communitys money. The LMDC needs to hear the community, she said, and the
corporations attempts thus far at hearing from the public are sorely lacking.
"There is a way of holding meetings that fosters discussion and provides for
accountability and then theres what the LMDC has done," she explained.
As for which needs should take a priority for the remaining $850 million, Flynn said the
community should decide.
"The host of organizations working with the community should work together in
defining (the needs) and in dividing up (the remaining funds) because all of these
are urgent needs," she explained.
"Health is an urgent need, but I think when you look at rebuilding peoples
lives, you cant really separate health from having a safe clean place to live and
being able to make a living. The whole idea of this money was to rebuild peoples
lives, and thats a multi-faceted project."
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