Trending Topics

NYC mayor holds release of 9/11 toxin report as legal review determines liability

Lawyers for 9/11 survivors were denied requests to learn what former Mayor Rudy Giuliani knew about Ground Zero toxins


AP Photo/Shawn Baldwin

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Mayor Adams won’t be releasing any data about the toxic chemicals floating around Ground Zero after 9/11 until an “extensive legal review” determines the city’s liability risk, the Daily News has learned.

Responding to questions as to why city agencies denied Freedom of Information Law requests for data on what former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani knew about toxic chemicals at Ground Zero in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, an Adams spokesman said a legal review is needed first.

“As a former first responder who worked the site at Ground Zero, Mayor Adams is unwavering in his support of the 9/11 victims, first responders, families and survivors,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are aware of requests to produce city documents on the aftermath of the attacks, which would require extensive legal review to identify privileged material and liability risk, and are exploring ways to determine the cost of such a review.”

Lawyers for 9/11 survivors who put in the FOIL requests were stunned by the city’s decision.

“It is not possible to reconcile the plain language of the Freedom of Information Law and court decisions construing it with the city’s position,” said attorney Andrew Carboy , who filed the FOIL requests with lawyer Matthew McCauley.

“Disclosure of the requested records is appropriate and justified without regard to whether the records support a finding of liability against the city and its agencies,” Carboy added.

“The Freedom of Information Law does not shield from disclosure materials that demonstrate the responding government agency’s wrongdoing.”

Carboy and McCauley sent FOIL requests to several city agencies about 9/11 toxins.

Late last month, city Emergency Management and the city Department of Environmental Protection — key city agencies in evaluating air quality after 9/11 — closed the requests, claiming they had no information to give.

“This agency does not have the records requested,” both agencies said in their three-sentence response.

The lawyers’ FOIL request sought “documents, reports, assessments” about the toxins, dust and fumes that came from the destroyed World Trade Center, as well as other information about future health threats to 9/11 first responders and survivors.

Carboy is appealing the FOIL denial. If he loses the appeal, he’s planning on taking legal action to get the documents, he said.

Under the FOIL, the city may withhold documents if their release would endanger public safety.

“Here, the requested historical records may demonstrate how the city endangered public safety, more than 22 years ago,” Carboy said.

“The release of the documents, today, could even promote public health and safety, enabling additional research for medical care and treatment of individuals affected by World Trade Center toxins,” he added.

Other city agencies asked to provide documents under the lawyers’ FOIL requests include the Design and Construction Department, the Health Department, the mayor’s office, the City Council and the Law Department.

One city official said uncovering the paperwork from these 9/11 studies posed a challenge because many documents at the time weren’t digitized, requiring the agencies to dig into decades-old paper records.

Carboy and McCauley issued the FOIL requests on behalf of 9/11 Health Watch and the families of first responders who died of 9/11 illnesses, including Firefighter Robert Fitzgibbon and NYPD Det. Luis Alvarez.

Frail, gaunt and racked with a 9/11 cancer, Alvarez testified to Congress in 2019 demanding an extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He lost his fight with cancer a month after he testified.

An estimated 400,000 people were exposed to Ground Zero toxins on 9/11 and the days that followed, including 91,000 first responders, 57,000 residents who lived south of Canal St. and 15,000 students and administrators at lower Manhattan schools, according to city statistics.

©2024 New York Daily News.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.