Ground Zero Workers Rally To Demand Reparations for Medical Care
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The day after Mount Sinai Medical Center released a study that found that 70% of rescue workers at ground zero became ill as a result of inhaling toxic dust, hundreds of people who cleaned up the neighborhood and residents who live in nearby communities rallied with local politicians near the World Trade Center site to demand from the government a health study, workers’ compensation, and medical care — even for undocumented immigrants.
“I’m one of the many forgotten victims after 9/11,” Lea Geronimo, 35, who worked on Wall Street, shouted. She said she was exposed to toxins and duped by the city and federal health officials about the risks of being downtown in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
As a result, she and other protesters said, thousands have suffered respiratory, neurological, and other health problems that have hindered their ability to work and live.
Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement Tuesday of a plan to boost services for people with illnesses related to the attacks — including a $16 million center at Bellevue Hospital — is a “step in the right direction,” a spokeswoman for a coalition of health and legal advocacy groups called Beyond Ground Zero Network, Karah Newton, said. She added that the government needs to be do more.
Ms. Newton said her coalition is angry that Mr. Bloomberg refuses to acknowledge a cause-and-effect relationship between the terrorist attack and the diseases the workers and residents protesting say they are suffering.
“Maybe you can describe it as a drop in very large bucket,” she said, referring to Mr. Bloomberg’s plan. “It just barely scratches the surface.”
The protesters, who shouted in English, Spanish, and Chinese, and the politicians who flanked them saved their most ferocious criticism for Governor Pataki. One protester carried a ragged doll topped with a caricature of the governor.
“In the days after the attacks, many, many undocumented immigrants came to the assistance of this city and this nation and toiled long hours amidst the toxic debris from the World Trade Center,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler said at the rally.
“No one, no city agency, no federal agency, no state agency asked them if they were documented. They didn’t ask for papers. They were here … to help this nation recover,” Rep. Nydia Velázquez said.
Mr. Nadler said he plans to introduce legislation calling for health benefits for residents and clean-up workers.