Disputes set to overshadow 9/11 remembrance

People gather at the World Trade Centre memorial on the eve of the September 11 anniversary tomorrow.

NEW YORK — Eleven years after the September 11, 2001, attacks, New Yorkers will mark the anniversary tomorrow against a backdrop of health concerns for emergency workers and a feud over financing that has stopped construction of the $1 billion Ground Zero museum.

While notable progress on redevelopment of the World Trade Centre has been made since early disputes over financial, design and security issues, the project remains hobbled by political battles and billions of dollars in cost overruns.

A major sticking point is the museum at the heart of the World Trade Centre site redevelopment. Construction has been suspended because of a feud over finances between the National September 11 Memorial and Museum foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

When the foundation announced recently that for the first time, politicians would be excluded from having speaking roles in the September 11 anniversary ceremonies, it was seen by many victims’ families and others in the 9/11 community as a public reflection of these behind-the-scenes disputes.

Overall site redevelopment costs have grown to nearly $15 billion, up from $11 billion in 2008, according to a recent project audit.

But for many of the families of 9/11 victims and ailing Ground Zero workers, the redevelopment disputes are a disheartening sideshow to the rising loss of human lives.

When the 110-storey Twin Towers came down, thousands of tons of steel, concrete, window glass and asbestos came down with it. While thousands of litres of flaming jet fuel and burning plastics released deadly carcinogens.

Last week, the New York City Fire Department added nine names to the 55 already etched on a wall honouring members who have died of illnesses related to Ground Zero rescue and recovery work.

Some estimates put the overall death toll from 9/11-related illness at more than 1,000. Nationwide, at least 20,000 Ground Zero workers are being treated and 40,000 are being monitored by the World Trade Centre Health Programme.

“We’re burying guys left and right,” said Nancy Carbone, executive director of Friends of Firefighters, a Brooklyn-based non-profit that helps treat first responders.

In the past seven weeks, three New York City cops, two firefighters and a construction union worker who toiled at Ground Zero have died of cancer or respiratory illnesses, according John Feal, who runs a non profit that monitors Ground Zero health care issues. (Reuters)

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