Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today's Tribeca Trib highlights the anger of residents in close proximity to the 9/11 trial location

Neighbors to Terror Trial Fear the Worst



Residents who live near the federal courthouse, behind them, at right. Many live next door in Chatham Towers, the building on the left.
Some of the residents who oppose the terror trial being held in the federal courthouse, behind them at right. Many live next door in Chatham Towers, the building on the left.
Across the city, lines are being drawn. Many insist it is fitting for the accused plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks to stand trial in Lower Manhattan, close to the site of destruction. Others, citing fears of disruption and danger, call it a massive mistake.

But there appears to be little difference of opinion in the two apartment complexes that stand a stone’s throw away from the federal courthouse where the suspects will be tried, and the Metropolitan Correctional Center where they are likely to be held.

Residents of Chatham Towers and Chatham Green—complexes that together comprise five buildings and nearly 700 units on the edge of Chinatown—are furious over what they see as a threat to their security and the coming incursion of demonstrators, broadcast satellite trucks, and an armed-camp-like atmosphere surrounding their homes. Their anger is fed further by memories of barricaded and militarized streets after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the subsequent closing of Park Row, the main artery through their neighborhood and into Chinatown.

“You can’t imagine the kind of hardships we’ve had to experience,” said Jeanie Chin, a member of the Civic Center Residents Coalition and board member of the 240-unit Chatham Towers. “This is what we are afraid will only intensify after this terrorism trial starts.”

“They could lock down a block and nothing moves,” said Richard Scorce, a member of the board of directors of Chatham Green, 215 Park Row.

One of the two Chatham Towers buildings stands next door to the courthouse, its doors opening onto Worth Street, the only nearby crosstown through street. Residents there believe that their street will be the epicenter for satellite trucks and demonstrations, and envision having to show ID just to enter their homes.

Previous high profile trials, those of Bernard Madoff and Martha Stewart, for example, made life difficult, the neighbors said, Sidewalks were impassable and merely exiting their buildings was a challenge. The trial of the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaik Mohammed, and four alleged accomplices will almost certainly eclipse them.

“When you think of all the people who are going to be there, protestors, and cameras and Al Jazeera—it’s all going to be right there,” said Toby Turkel, the former president of Chatham Towers, referring to what amounts to her building's front yard. “And people who are very dangerous will have access.”

“How are you going to secure a residential area for this kind of trial,” said Nancy Linday, a Chatham Tower resident. "How are you going to do it?”

Asked for comment on the residents’ concerns, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said details about the security perimeter have yet to be worked out and referred further questions to the New York City Police Department. In a statement, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it was "highly appropriate that those accused in the deaths of nearly 3,000 human beings in New York City be tried here, and the NYPD is prepared for the security required."

In Washington, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as Rep. Jerrold Nadler joined a chorus of Democrats in support of moving the suspects from Guantanamo Bay to New York City.

“We have handled terrorist trials before, and we welcome this opportunity to do so again,” Nadler said in a statement.  “Any suggestion that our prosecutors and our law enforcement personnel are not up to the task of safely holding and successfully prosecuting terrorists on American soil is insulting and untrue.”

But closer to home, the decision, announced on Nov. 13 by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, was criticized by some local representatives, including City Councilman Alan Gerson and City Councilwoman-elect Margaret Chin.

Chin said in a statement that she has “serious concerns” about the government’s plans. “We already suffer from heavy security measures, including the unnecessary closure of Park Row,” she said, adding that she is worried about the safety of the community.

“Lower Manhattan is already a recognized terrorist target,” Chin said, “and I hope appropriate steps can be taken to keep those of us living near Ground Zero and the Federal Courts safe.”

Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1, said in an opinion piece in Huffington Post that she supports the government’s decision, calling it “imperative and absolutely appropriate that Mr. Mohammed be tried in the shadow of the World Trade Center site.”

The board’s vice-chair, Catherine McVay Hughes, disagrees.

“Why does this happen in the most densely populated area of the country,” said Hughes, who is also chair of CB1's World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee. “If security is an issue it could easily be taken somewhere else.”

Those who will be living near the trial could not agree with Hughes more. Still angry over the barricades outside their windows on Park Row, they insist the neighborhood has already reached its limit with security.

“Just take it elsewhere,” said Nancy Linday. “Give Chinatown a break.”

From the Downtown Express newspaper - mixed reaction to the terrorist trials in Lower Manhattan

There is likely to be tighter security at places like Foley Square when defendants in the 9/11 terrorism case are moved to Lower Manhattan. Some of the suspects are expected to be held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center near Downtown’s federal courthouse.

Downtown people & pols mixed on hosting terror trials

Already-tight security measures will only get tighter when five accused 9/11 terrorists go on trial in Lower Manhattan.
The federal government announced last week that the likely death penalty trial would take place in Downtown’s federal court, just blocks from the World Trade Center site. The Police Dept. has not finalized security plans, but press reports predict more street closures for the neighborhood and a much bigger law enforcement presence.
Many local residents and workers said the trials would be an unwelcome intrusion upon a community that has not yet recovered from 9/11, and the terrorists should be brought to justice elsewhere.
“It’s just sheer lunacy,” said Danny Chen, who lives in Chatham Green. “The elected officials seem to have forgotten that we haven’t yet resolved the issue of just normal day-to-day after 9/11, and now they’re throwing this at us…. It’s hubris, it’s bravado, and it doesn’t serve any practical purpose.”
Chen is a member of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, a group that was named to remind people that the Civic Center does in fact have residents, not just courts and offices. Chen cited the post-9/11 Park Row closure, which put much of his apartment complex behind security barriers, as just one example of how the neighborhood is still “under lockdown.”
The actual impact of the trials on daily life in Lower Manhattan remains to be seen. The trials will take place in the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St., which is named for former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The defendantss, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom prosecutors say masterminded the attack, will likely be held in the high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center nearby. The streets around the M.C.C. which is across from police headquarters, are now closed to general traffic but open to pedestrians, while some of the streets adjacent to the nearby courthouse, including Worth St., are currently open to both cars and pedestrians.
The New York Post reported this week that the city would shut down additional streets around the courthouse, bring in additional U.S. Marshals and National Guardsmen and post snipers on rooftops.
Paul J. Browne, the N.Y.P.D.’s top spokesperson, said in an e-mail to Downtown Express that contrary to the Post story, “No plans for the trial have been detailed yet.” Browne denied the Post report that some subway entrances would close during the trial.
And Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a Lower Manhattan resident, told NY1 Monday that he did not expect the trial to have a large impact on businesses or the community because Downtown already has so much security.
Still, the blocks around 500 Pearl St. will likely be subject to additional security measures. And while those measures may make the area safe, they could also make it unlivable, said John Fratta, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee.

“That’s totally unacceptable,” Fratta said of the decision to locate the trial Downtown. “That’s making us live in a war zone.”

C.B. 1 Chairperson Julie Menin has invited the N.Y.P.D. to public and private meetings to discuss their plans.
“We want to meet right away and get a sense of what this means for the neighborhood,” Menin said.
Menin, who supports holding the trial in New York and hopes to attend it, said she has heard from residents on both sides of the issue. In an essay for The Huffington Post, she argued that it is important for Mohammed and the other accused terrorists to receive a fair and open trial in the city, rather than go before a military tribunal, which would be less likely to convict them and would not shed light on the interrogation methods used, including waterboarding.
Not everyone agrees.

“I’d hang ’em right away,” said Larry Torto, 53, a Health Dept. worker who was sitting on a bench in Foley Square at lunchtime Monday. “These are war criminals and they should be treated as such. They should not be given the same status as American citizens. They should be tried by a military tribunal.”
A few benches over was Jim O’Donnell, a 64-year-old courts worker who agreed that bringing terrorists into New York is an unnecessary risk.

“I don’t want them near Lower Manhattan ever again,” O’Donnell said. “Just seeing what they did would make their day…. It’s like asking for something to happen.”
Jeanie Chin, a member of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, added that if President Obama and his family lived near the courts, he would never have placed the trial there.
“They’re putting us in the line of fire and they know it and they don’t care,” Chin said. “It’s making us mad as hell.”

However, Fern Howell, 61, a city marriage clerk, said it made sense to try the terrorists at the scene of their crime.
“If Ray Kelly says he’s got it under control, there should be no problem,” Howell said. “I’d sure like to be on the jury — it’d be a nice vacation.”
Since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the trial plans last Friday, city, state and federal politicians have been weighing in. Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced his support, but former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Gov. David Paterson both said the trials did not belong in the city, though for different reasons.
Giuliani argued that the appropriate place to try the accused terrorists is in a military tribunal, not civilian court, though in 2006 he had high praise for the civilian trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker.
Separately, Paterson said he was concerned about the impact of the trials on the local community, which suffered on 9/11 and afterward when the federal government said without evidence that the air was safe to breathe. Paterson said returning the terrorists to the site would be an “encumbrance” for New Yorkers.
Paterson was one of the few Democrats to publicly disagree with Obama’s decision. U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents Lower Manhattan, called the decision “fitting.” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Downtowner, also said he supported Obama’s choice, though Judy Rapfogel, his chief of staff, said, “We couldn’t describe it as a good idea.” She said the speaker would work to protect the community from any adverse effects.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, whose district includes Lower Manhattan, did not object to the venue of the trials but said in a statement that he did not want the proceedings to infringe on anyone’s security or quality of life.

Margaret Chin, a Democrat who will represent Downtown in the City Council starting Jan. 1, said she would prefer the trials were held somewhere else.

“The Lower Manhattan neighborhoods have been so stressed by all the security measures since 9/11 that this will cause more hardship for the residents and the businesses,” Chin said in a statement to Downtown Express.

Other residents and workers also said they were concerned for local businesses, but the manager of Albella Ristorante and Bar on Reade St. said he wasn’t worried.

“We’re hoping it’s going to drum up business,” said the manager, who did not give his name. Albella is used to major events, from the Madoff trial to the Yankees parade. “Usually we don’t suffer any because of that stuff.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Would you like THIS in your neighborhood? Across the street from a Chinatown playground.....

This is from the NY Post:
When the murderous 9/11 Gang of Five finally lands in New York for trial, they'll face an impenetrable wall of security -- with five times the normal number of US marshals flooding lower Manhattan and a ring of marksmen watching their every move, sources said yesterday.
National Guardsmen will be placed at major transportation hubs while the NYPD will close off subway entrances near the federal courthouse and intensify bag searches throughout the system, the sources said.

Marshals will be shipped in from out of town and snipers placed on roofs nearby the courthouse, where a death-penalty trial is likely.

Despite the massive security detail, former federal prison guard Louis Pepe -- who was permanently injured in a 2000 stabbing by Osama bin Laden aide Mamdouh Mahmud Salim -- said that it was not enough and that the trial should not be here in the first place.

"It's going to happen again," said Pepe, who suffered brain damage and was paralyzed on his right side after Salim stabbed him in the eye with a sharpened toothbrush while awaiting trial for the 1998 African embassy bombings.
"They want to kill people. They want jihad. They want to become martyrs. That's all they want. That's what they did to me."

CCRC: Why are they here, a few feet from a residential complex which houses 240 families and across the street from Chinatown's heavily used Columbus Park.

The CRUSH Of media expected to descend on Worth St. and surrounding residential complexes during the 9/11 terrorist trials

The trial for Bernard Madoff drew hundreds of reporters.

A traffic nightmare ensued on one of the few crosstown streets in lower Manhattan

Not much of a "security risk" existed at the trial for Bernard Madoff , unless you WERE Bernard Madoff, so media and passers-by were allowed to freely mill about and proceed unencumbered by such pesky nuisances as the National Guard armed with AK-47s.
IF the 9/11 terrorist trials are to begin at the same location, however, as predicted by the New York Times recently, we're in for a totally different atmosphere. Not only will armed soldiers be in place around the perimeter of the court house, the residents who live next door to the building will have to fight a gauntlet of media personnel AND checkpoints for the next TWO years at least.......... and for what? So the terrorists can, in the end, call for a mistrial?

Fairness for the terrorists? What about the rights of the people in the community to live in peace and safety? What about the pedestrians and drivers using this narrow roadway whose lives will again be totally disrupted by a media circus, circling helicopters, protesters, armed camp, rerouting of traffic, shutdowns, etc. What about the newly renovated marriage bureau and wedding chapels across the street from the court -- what bride wishes to be married in a militarized zone? Get ready, we're in for a dangerous and bumpy ride as these photos show -- but for how many years?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NY Times reports on the coming DELUGE of security forces and check points "necessary" for the coming terrorist trials in Chinatown

How New York May Tighten Security Vise

Published: November 13, 2009

Convoys of heavily armed officers, 
fields of barricades and 
additional checkpoints are likely to sprout in and around the jail where the accused will be housed and the courthouse where they will be tried. 

Access to nearby streets and areas may be sealed off. 

And bands of plainclothes officers — “people in civilian clothes with earplugs,” as one former law enforcement official put it — will probably be scanning the crowds to spot anyone with ill intent.


Now we can stop scratching our heads over why President Obama gave only a perfunctory nod to Bill Thompson's mayoral bid. In January 2009, Obama announced a major policy decision to dismantle Guantanamo Bay within a year and route prisoners to the U.S. for holding and trials.

Republican senators, particularly in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kansas mobilized to denounce the routing of prisoners to their home states and making their areas international targets. With the clock ticking on which community would accept these prisoners, the Obama administration made a backdoor deal with the Bloomberg administration over the spring and summer, preparing the way for the Mastermind of 9/11's trial in Manhattan.

Hence the lukewarm support for Thompson during the mayoral campaign as Bloomberg likely promised that if he was re-elected, he would help Obama bring in the terrorists.

In return, on October 4, Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly announced a new $24 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to enlarge the “ring of steel” around lower Manhattan to include midtown. Perhaps more Obama stimulas dollars for the city? Or a larger share of the $42.8 billion that the U.S House of Representatives voted for the Homeland Security Department as part of the bill allowing foreign terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay into the U.S for trial?

Surely the trials will boost Bloomberg and Kelly’s international profiles and egos in what is being billed as “the trial of the century.

Now just weeks after his election win, Bloomberg keeps his word and ushers in the terrorists. Nowhere in Friday's frenzied reporting did anyone ask the Lower Manhattan community if they want these international terrorist trials held in front of our doors?

Yet heartless elected officials are putting a community already terrorized by 9/11 in further jeopardy. Around Chinatown and the Civic Center where Kelly has already proclaimed us 9/11 collateral residents, the "ring of steel" is rapidly turning into a "noose of security."

Can you imagine how concerned they all were when Thompson announced during the mayoral debates that he would replace Kelly if elected? Kelly would miss the opportunity to use our streets as a magnet to test his"ring of steel" against mad terrorists.

One really has to question WHO the true mad men are here? Unless YOU want the trials in front of your own front doors, SHUT UP about putting downtowners' homes, schools, park and neighborhoods at increased risk of terrorist attack! Keep the trials OUT OF MANHATTAN!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Manhattan Bridge intersection brings another tragedy - D.N.A. reporting, Suzanne Ma covers the story for us

Several Injured in Multi-Car Crash at Manhattan Bridge Updated 4 hrs ago

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vacant Storefronts at the beginning of Mott Street - an all too common sight

Mott Street, the traditional backbone of Chinatown, the historic core, the ground zero of the Chinese experience on the eastern seaboard of America is on the verge of commercial collapse. The following photos were taken on November 5, 2009. Vacant storefronts in these photos, concentrated less than half a block from each other, represent millions of dollars in commerce and tax dollars that once flowed in this narrow corridor -- across from a closed Park Row and a major Chatham Square reconstruction that will soon bury more streets in rubble.

Since 2001 the NYPD has been steadfast in their claim that for security reasons -- Park Row, the entrance to Chinatown from the Brooklyn Bridge and other roadways must remain closed, despite the fact that similar security measures are not in place at 26 Federal Plaza. In addition the loss of former street parking on Park Row, Worth and the Bowery as well as the 400 car Municipal Garage, the loss of bus routes for years and the pervasive government permit placard abuse that was only partially alleviated two years ago after much community protest and documentation -- have helped to seal the fate of businesses at the beginning of Mott Street.

Rather than find a solution to the financial collapse occurring in proximity to Park Row and just a few blocks from City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg has done nothing. During his reelection bid, he met with his campaign supporters and hinted at working with Chinatown to find a way to get Park Row reopened, however, when the Downtown Express newspaper questioned just how he would do that, his spokesperson denied everything "we never advocated for the reopening of Park Row" was the official statement.

As local residents pleaded for a meeting with Police Headquarters to offer alternative security solutions, there has been no response. The snowball of financial despair will continue to roll down Mott Street with the impending Chatham Square's reconstruction. Mayor Bloomberg and his Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have deliberately allowed the ball to drop on this historic stretch of Chinatown. It appears these two have forgotten Benjamin Franklin's famous words, "Those who are willing to give up a little freedom for a little security, wind up with neither freedom, nor security".

1 Mott Street vacant for years

7 Mott Street

9 Mott Street

10 Mott Street

11 Mott Street

19-a Mott Street

1 Worth Street at corner of Mott Street

103 Mosco St.

Mosco Street at corner of Mott Street

In relative terms, the "security" policies of Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik Khan go down in modern Chinese American history as having the same effect as those documented in --

  1. DRIVEN OUT: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans

    - 8:17am
    Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans couldn't be more timely or important.” - Lisa See, best-selling author, Snow Flower and The Secret ... - Cached - Similar -

By Jean Pfaelzer

DRIVEN OUT: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The New York Times Comments on Bloomberg's narrow victory:


Mayor No Longer Seems Invincible

James Estrin/The New York Times
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg celebrated his re-election Tuesday night at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. More Photos >

Published: November 4, 2009
For the first time in years, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg finds himself governing New York City from a most unaccustomed vantage point: Vulnerability

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Gwendolyn Tindall, center, signed in on Tuesday before voting at Esplanade Gardens in Harlem. Mayor Bloomberg defeated William C. Thompson Jr. with far fewer votes than expected. More Photos »

Ninety million dollars and a near-constant loop of negative commercials about his opponent later, the mayor ended election night in possession of a surprisingly modest margin of victory — far narrower than pollsters had predicted and with 100,000 fewer votes than he won in 2005. This could have profound implications for the tenor of a third Bloomberg term, not least that it is likely to hinder the mayor’s well-honed ability to cow Democrats and liberal interest groups.
“You’re going to see Democrats lining up to run in 2013, and they’ll start next week,” said George Arzt, a longtime campaign consultant who generally works for Democrats. “For a mayor who is very confident in himself, this is an earthquake.”
The mayor often seems most comfortable working leader to leader, cultivating black ministers, community board leaders and the like. He communicates with the broader public largely from an arm’s length — with expensive television campaigns, handsome Web sites and the 311 community-service system. What perhaps was missing all along, and what will be his challenge now, is to find a more tactile, emotional connection with New Yorkers.
“It’s not a vote of repudiation; it’s a vote of no confidence,” said Fred Siegel, a history professor at the Cooper Unionand a longtime chronicler of urban America. “A lot of people are going to think twice before showing him deference.”
William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller, showed little deference Tuesday night, offering a concession speech that was something of a celebration. “Thank you, New York,” he told his supporters. “Your support, your enthusiasm and your desire for change is what carried me to this point.”
Mr. Bloomberg already was facing a third term saddled with a $5 billion deficit, and inevitable lame-duck status.
Now, given his huge financial advantage in the campaign, he will have to confront the question of whether his five-point margin offers a different mandate: to change his governing style.
For all the talk of a post-racial, post-class city, Mr. Bloomberg gained a third term heavily dependent on the votes of white, middle-class and wealthy voters. Twenty-three percent of Tuesday’s voters were black, and 73 percent of them voted for the Democrat, Mr. Thompson, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research. Almost half the city’s voters are white, and two-thirds of them voted for Mr. Bloomberg. Seventy-two percent of the voters making $200,000 or more voted for the mayor; 54 percent of those whose incomes fell under $50,000 voted for the Democrat.
Election Day interviews highlighted this divide. Voter after voter who had, in past years, voted for this billionaire mayor, voiced a sense that a once-admired politician had grown more distant and tetchy, and too filled with self-regard.
It is, in part, the curse of the third term; New Yorkers tend to tire of their politicians, from Edward Koch to Mario Cuomo.
“I campaigned for Bloomberg eight years ago,” said David Gibson, 60, a computer worker. “But he changed because of a strange personality shift that took place. He went from being loveable, likeable and amiable to a guy who comes out very defensive and intolerant.”
All of which speaks to an enduring and now urgent challenge for this mayor. His marriage with the voters ever has been a touch chilly. In past elections, the romance of his money and competence was enough to help him carry working-class, heavily minority districts. But he appears to have lost many of those neighborhoods Tuesday.
Councilman James Sanders, who represents a predominantly black area of southeast Queens, was one of a number of black officials to endorse Mr. Bloomberg in 2005. This time, with some reluctance, he went for Mr. Thompson.
“There was this imperial attitude, a prerogative that he favors the rich,” Mr. Sanders said. “ And term limits stuck like a bone in the throats of many out here. They’re hurting: foreclosures, taxes, and they don’t like his attitude.”
As Kenneth Sherrill, a professor of political science at Hunter College noted: “Bloomberg, for better or for worse, is not a charismatic figure. So he didn’t have passionate supporters. But he may have had passionate opponents.”
The unanswered question for many Tuesday night was what might have happened had Mr. Bloomberg faced a more forceful challenger. “If Thompson had run a moderately competent campaign, and created a real narrative for himself, he might be mayor,” Mr. Siegel said.
In the end, though, the question circles back to the mayor, whose commercials ran on every channel at every hour, whose advertisements appeared in every ethnic newspaper. At some point, for many voters, too much may have become too much.
In recent weeks, Mayor Bloomberg tended to dismiss questions about his expected margin of victory — would it be 10 percentage points? Fifteen, maybe? — with a wave of the hand.
Two weeks after the election, he said recently, no one will remember the result. The question now might be turned on the mayor: Will he remember this result in two weeks, not to mention two years? And how might that shape a new mayoralty?