Volume 79, Number 34 | January 27 - February 2, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Editorial

Move terror trials

The proposed 9/11 terror trials will impose too heavy a burden on Lower Manhattan, so other alternatives must be seriously studied immediately.

Two months ago, when we supported the decision to hold the trials in Lower Manhattan’s federal courthouse, we emphasized the need for financial support for New York’s law enforcement and for the local businesses that will be hurt by the security closures. Since then, the initial guess as to the security figure has tripled from $75 million to more than $200 million per year, and there has been virtually no discussion on the federal level of providing any help to stores in and near the sprawling security zone. Tens of millions more dollars would likely be needed to protect local businesses from the trials’ adverse impacts. Yet, sufficient help from Washington is a fantasy. 

The impact area won’t just be concentrated around the courts. The security buffer zone would extend as many as six blocks, up to Canal St. and as far west as Broadway — a very large area.

Community Board 1 members and others have suggested some alternative sites, including Governors Island, which is minutes away from Lower Manhattan and refutes the NIMBY (not in my backyard) counterargument. Last Thursday, the same day Police Commissioner Ray Kelly suggested the island was worth studying, he pulled back some after our sister newspaper’s Web site, Downtownexpress.com, reported that Mayor Bloomberg thought it was a dumb idea.

The mayor does not make knee-jerk decisions, and his initial reaction should not be taken as gospel, particularly since, one of his stated reasons — protecting the Harbor High School, which is moving to the island — is actually a better argument for moving the trial out of Lower Manhattan. Murry Bergtraum High School is a block away from the trial site and there are many other Downtown schools closer than the dozens of acres that could be between the maritime school and island trials. 

We’re not talking about building a large prison, but guarding five suspects on a 173-acre island. The U.S. military, federal law enforcement and the New York Police Department will be able to secure the island much more easily and with much less disruption to the public (perhaps none) than in Lower Manhattan.

The suggestions of C.B. 1 Chairperson Julie Menin also include Stewart National Guard Base, West Point and the federal prison in Otisville. We think Sing Sing prison in Ossining is worth looking at, too. These and Governors Island are all in New York’s Southern District, a prerequisite for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, though we’re not convinced that’s legally required since the 9/11 attack also occurred in Washington, D.C. The Southern District has successfully prosecuted terrorists before, and civilian courts are ideal when possible.

The mayor should give the island more consideration and let a study proceed. All of the alternatives look like they could be better than Pearl St. and only one has to be feasible.

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