July 23rd - July 29th, 2004
9/11 Commission Releases Final Report
Friday, July 23: The Sept. 11 Commission -- the federal group investigating the 9/11 attacks -- released its final report to the public on July 22, providing an evaluation of New York City's emergency response efforts, among other items.
While the 11-member committee found several inadequacies in need of revision in the city's response system, it also unanimously concluded that those who worked in the trade center, and those who came to help them, '"did their best to cope with an unimaginable catastrophe," the New York Times quoted from the commission's final report.
Recognizing that both Washington, D.C., and New York City remain likely targets for future terrorist attacks, the commission went on to recommend that the cities receive the majority of federal homeland security funding, the Times said. The additional funding, requested by Mayor Bloomberg during his presentation before the panel in May, would help the city finance the millions of dollars in security maintenance and upgrades that have been implemented since September 11, 2001, the paper added.
New Study Concludes Cancer Risk from WTC Chemicals Is Low
Monday, July 26: According to a new study, the hazardous chemicals released into the air during the collapse of the World Trade Center did not pose a serious cancer risk to area residents, the New York Times and Associated Press reported.
The research concluded that cancer-causing compounds found in the air during the attacks, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dissipated rapidly after the initial collapse of the WTC, drastically decreasing the risk of cancer among those in the area, both the Times and AP reported.
While earlier studies have indicated that airborne carcinogens remained in the air for an extended period of time following 9/11, the latest research -- based on a sample of nine types of PAHs -- reveals that only a fraction of carcinogenic particles were 2.5 microns or less, a size that could potentially remain in the air and be inhaled into the lungs, the AP added.
"The public was exposed to some toxic PAHs at levels that were quite high soon after the collapse," Stephen Rappaport, the University of North Carolina professor who spearheaded the study, told the AP.
"However," he continued, "due to the rapid decline in PAH levels, with the dissipation of the fires, the long-term risks of cancer were minuscule."
Although the report shows that the general cancer risk was small among area residents, researchers also found that rescue and cleanup workers at Ground Zero could have been exposed to higher concentrations of PAHs. Additionally, pregnant women, who may be more susceptible to the hazardous materials, may have also been affected, added the Times and AP.
The study was conducted by Rappaport in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Historic Downtown Post Office to Reopen after Renovations
Wednesday, July 28: Downtown's Church Street post office, located next to Ground Zero, will reopen on Monday, August 2, after undergoing extensive renovations to repair the damage it suffered during the 9/11 attacks, the Associated Press and Newsday reported.
Located at 90 Church Street, the 15-story historic building underwent a substantial restoration process that included the replacement of 800 windows and the refinishing of the building's original marble lobby. The new and improved Church Street post office will also feature new furniture, lighting, restrooms, self-service centers, vending machines, a postal store, passport services, and service windows, among other offerings, Newsday added.
"We are excited to return this postal facility to the community," Post Master Vinnie Mallow told the AP. "In addition to the conveniences, [the reopening] will make a positive contribution to the regrowth of the downtown area."
Since the Church Street office closed, postal services have been relocated to midtown's Farley building, across from Madison Square Garden. While the post office will officially reopen on August 2, a grand reopening ceremony has been scheduled for August 19, the AP added.
Bush Supports Plan to Reallocate 9/11 Aid
Thursday, July 29: Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki announced President George W. Bush's approval of a plan to redirect up to $2 billion in federally funded Liberty Zone tax benefits toward other downtown rebuilding efforts.
Among the projects expected to receive funding is a $6 billion rail link between Lower Manhattan and Long Island and JFK airport, an integral component of the rebuilding plan that officials hope will improve transportation access downtown and re-attract thousands of jobs to the area.
"By improving regional access to Lower Manhattan, we can continue the area's dramatic rebirth from the attacks of September 11th, and ensure its future as an economic engine for the entire city," Mayor Bloomberg said in a release. "This is just the latest example of how we have worked with the president and the governor to find creative solutions for New York City's most serious challenges," he continued.
After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government approved a $20 billion aid package to New York, including more than $5 billion in tax incentives dedicated to stimulating redevelopment in Lower Manhattan. Following a request from the governor on behalf of city and state officials to find alternative means of utilizing the remaining, unused portions of the aid package -- totaling $2 billion -- President Bush agreed to reallocate the funding.
While the proposal has not been officially approved, the Federal Office of Management and Budget is expected to announce the administration's support of the reallocation in its mid-session review.