Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Neglected Story: How 9/11 Debris Hit Brooklyn

By Paul Moses

Back on Aug. 23, 2002, Newsday reported that the number of respiratory patients doubled at some Brooklyn hospitals after the World Trade Center crumbled. The paper also published a vivid front-page satellite photo showing the trail of fallout from the twin towers as it spread straight south across Brooklyn.

As Newsday reported (and as I wrote in a 2002 op-ed piece in Newsday), the winds followed a similar path across Brooklyn more than 80 percent of the time between Sept. 11, 2001 and Dec. 14, 2001, when the fires were finally ended.

The same government agencies that told the public there was no reason to be concerned about the air quality in lower Manhattan a week after the trade center fell also assured the public that there was no need to study whether there was a health impact in Brooklyn.

So nearly five years later, the issue of World Trade Center fallout in Brooklyn has finally gotten the stage it should have gotten in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Reps. Edolphus Towns and Jerrold Nadler held a hearing on the issue on April 23 in Brooklyn Borough Hall, presenting evidence from experts that the acrid smoke had increased the level of asthma in Brooklyn.

This is a health threat that should long ago have been taken seriously by city, state and federal health and environmental agencies. The plume that spread across Brooklyn was real enough to be photographed. Traces of debris landed in my backyard in Marine Park, to say nothing of the more direct exposure in other parts of the borough. One woman in my neighborhood found not only brokerage records but also a singed page from the Book of Job.

The issue still isn't getting the study it should. The fact that it hasn't says a great deal about how Manhattan-centric local government is.