Ground Zero Illnesses Clouding Giuliani’s Legacy
Anyone who watched Rudolph W. Giuliani preside over ground zero in the days after 9/11 glimpsed elements of his strength: decisiveness, determination, self-confidence.A human cost indeed, and a huge one! At this point it seems quite safe to say that more people will die from illnesses contracted while cleaning up after the demolition of the World Trade Center than were killed on the day of the demolition.
Those qualities were also on display over the months he directed the cleanup of the collapsed World Trade Center. But today, with evidence that thousands of people who worked at ground zero have become sick, many regard Mr. Giuliani’s triumph of leadership as having come with a human cost.
An examination of Mr. Giuliani’s handling of the extraordinary recovery operation during his last months in office shows that he seized control and largely limited the influence of experienced federal agencies. In doing that, according to some experts and many of those who worked in the trade center’s ruins, Mr. Giuliani might have allowed his sense of purpose to trump caution in the rush to prove that his city was not crippled by the attack.This is a very kind way of not mentioning that his "drive" may have been primarily motivated by a desire to get rid of the evidence as quickly as possible.
Administration documents and thousands of pages of legal testimony filed in a lawsuit against New York City, along with more than two dozen interviews with people involved in the events of the last four months of Mr. Giuliani’s administration, show that while the city had a safety plan for workers, it never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators.Clearly "the city" was mostly interested in enforcing something else.
At the same time, the administration warned companies working on the pile that they would face penalties or be fired if work slowed. And according to public hearing transcripts and unpublished administration records, officials also on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried about exposure to lawsuits by sickened workers.Lovely people we're talking about here.
From the beginning, there was no doubt that Mr. Giuliani and his team ruled the hellish disaster site. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all with extensive disaster response experience, arrived almost immediately, only to be placed on the sideline. One Army Corps official said Mr. Giuliani acted like a “benevolent dictator.”You have to wonder how much they paid him to use the word "benevolent".
Despite the presence of those federal experts, Mr. Giuliani assigned the ground zero cleanup to a largely unknown city agency, the Department of Design and Construction. Kenneth Holden, the department’s commissioner until January 2004, said in a deposition in the federal lawsuit against the city that he initially expected FEMA or the Army Corps to try to take over the cleanup operation. Mr. Giuliani never let them.And as a result...
More than 2,000 New York City firefighters have been treated for serious respiratory problems. Seventy percent of nearly 10,000 recovery workers screened at Mount Sinai Medical Center have trouble breathing. City officials estimate that health care costs related to the air at ground zero have already run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and no one knows whether other illnesses, like cancers, will emerge.On the other hand,
Although the cleanup was expected to last 30 months, the pit was cleared by June 2002, nine months after the attack.How did they do it so fast?
The four large construction companies that had been hired to clear debris worked around the clock. But that was not fast enough for the city, especially after the rescue operation formally ended on Sept. 29. One reason for the push may have been concern that unnecessary delays would have added to the cost of the cleanup.DePalma cannot bring himself to say "destruction of evidence", much less "obstruction of justice". Instead he just piles on the evidence:
Two days after the rescue efforts ended and the full-scale recovery and cleanup began, Michael Burton, executive deputy commissioner of the Design and Construction Department, warned one of the companies in a letter that the city would fire individual workers or companies “if the highest level of efficiency is not maintained.”There's more. There's a lot more. But it's all the same. The mayor should have cracked down on workers who weren't wearing respirators.
Bring in more soft pillows!
If Anthony DePalma cannot say "obstruction of justice" or "destruction of evidence", he surely cannot say anything about what happened last month in San Diego, when a Citizens' Grand Jury returned indictments against both Giuliani and our favorite "suspect awaiting indictment", Jerome Hauer, for "conspiracy to commit mass murder".
Still, as the saying goes, half a loaf is better than none.