The not-in-my-backyard campaign for the 9/11 trials is growing.
After initially giving tacit acceptance to a Lower Manhattan-based trial for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 conspirators, Mayor Bloomberg now wants it moved elsewhere. The potential for the trial to become a terrorist target has upset downtown residents, who also fear the requisite security could disrupt residents and businesses. The real estate industry has been lobbying hard behind the scenes to have the trial moved elsewhere (much more on that in a story in this week’s print edition).
“It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn’t cost a billion dollars, which using downtown will,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters Wednesday. “It will also impact traffic and commerce and people’s lifestyles downtown and it would be great if we didn’t do it.”
The trial’s costs are estimated at more than $200 million a year, and it is not known how long the trial, or future trials, might last.
“My hope is that the Attorney General and the President decide to change their mind, but if they don’t we will provide the security,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Tuesday night, Community Board 1 approved a resolution asking the Obama administration to move the trial elsewhere. Community board chair Julie Menin has suggested four other sites: West Point, Stewart Airport, the White Plains courthouse, and a federal prison in Otisville.
From a letter Ms. Menin sent to Attorney General Eric Holder today:
We believe the Lower Manhattan Foley Courthouse is not a suitable location for the trial for a number of reasons, including the fact that the neighborhood is the financial capital of the country (and the fourth largest commercial business district in the country), has already been attacked twice by terrorists, and is next to a dense residential neighborhood. This community endured the ravages of September 11th and is already high risk given its history and the presence of numerous sensitive sites including Ground Zero and the soon to be built September 11th Memorial which will bring over 5 million visitors a year to the neighborhood.
The state’s two U.S. senators have been reluctant to take a strong stand for or against the issue, and local elected officials—including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—have been reserved in their language, asking only that the Obama administration study other locations and minimize impacts downtown. A spokesman for Senator Gillibrand has said her primary concern is getting the federal government to pay for the security, a position Senator Schumer shares.
Representative Nydia Velazquez seems to have jumped on board with the local residents. Her office Wednesday afternoon released a letter she wrote to the attorney general: “The choice for a trial location has been made in an extremely shortsighted manner and I would respectfully request that you explore the possibilities of moving the trial to an alternate site.”
In addition, the Real Estate Board of New York has launched a Web site for the campaign: Movethetrial.com.