More than two months after Attorney General Eric Holder initially announced that Lower Manhattan would play host to the trial for five accused conspirators of the 9/11 attacks, resistance—suddenly—has mushroomed.
While criticism simmered for weeks and the local residents and real estate executives were lobbying intensely to change the trial’s location, it wasn’t until Mayor Bloomberg reversed himself this week and came out against the trial taking place in Lower Manhattan that the resistance seems to have caught on. Since, numerous members of Congress have threatened to block funding for the trial, including Representative Pete King and Senator Lindsey Graham; a large set of local members and other elected officials wrote a letter Thursday critical of the choice and urging review; and now the pressure has been so great that the Obama administration is now reportedly considering alternative sites. (The resistance to the trial from many members of Congress is less about the disruption to Lower Manhattan and more about a military versus civilian trial. But either way, cutting off the funding would clearly preclude a downtown trial.)
Mr. Bloomberg initially was favorable to the idea of a downtown trial, calling its location “fitting.” His concern became one of cost, as he wanted the federal government to pick up the tab (a cause that Senators Schumer and Gillibrand took up).
But in the past two weeks, the local Community Board 1 has been increasingly vocal in its desire to see the trial moved elsewhere—CB1 chairwoman Julie Menin pushed alternative locations, including Governors Island in a Times op-ed—and business leaders have less publicly added pressure to elected officials.
Much of the flare-up of dissent emerged after the $200 million–a–year security plan was presented, unveiled to business leaders by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at the Police Foundation breakfast on Jan. 13. The presentation showed the planned security perimeters around Lower Manhattan’s federal courthouse in Foley Square.
“He gave a terrifying presentation,” Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said shortly after.
(Here’s a report of the presentation at the time by Judith Miller of City Journal.)
On Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg said that “my hope is that the attorney general and the president decide to change their mind,” giving rise to a torrent of similar statements from other elected officials. (Some elected officials at the local level, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn, were previously critical of the choice of venue, though it did not garner the same national attention.)