Bloomberg: try 9/11 mastermind somewhere else
Urges feds to boot 9/11 prosecution as $1B cost looms
By TOM TOPOUSIS and DAVID SEIFMAN
Last Updated: 7:31 AM, January 28, 2010
Responding to growing pressure from downtown residents and business leaders, Mayor Bloomberg yesterday said the trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his fellow terrorists should be moved out of the city.
"It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn't cost $1 billion, which using downtown will, and it will also impact traffic and commerce and people's lifestyles," Bloomberg said.
"And it would be great if we didn't do it."
Bloomberg agrees with a resolution from Community Board 1 this week calling on US Attorney General Eric Holder to move the trial out of the city.
The board suggested another federal site, possibly West Point, an Air National Guard base at Stewart Airport, the federal prison in upstate Otisville, or White Plains federal court.
"The suggestion of a military base is probably a reasonably good one, relatively easy to provide the security," Bloomberg said. "They tend to be outside of cities, so they don't disrupt other people."
The mayor said it's up to the feds to decide the trial site.
"But if they were to move it elsewheres, I'd be very happy with that," the mayor said.
Bloomberg had previously called the decision to try the terrorists near the World Trade Center "fitting," and last week blasted a CB 1 push to move the trial to Governors Island as "one of the dumbest ideas" he's ever heard.
Sen. Charles Schumer yesterday also joined the growing list of lawmakers hoping to move the trial out of the city.
"Senator Schumer is following the guidance of the mayor and the police commissioner, shares their concerns and is certainly open to alternatives," said spokesman Josh Vlasto.
Schumer had previously insisted on getting federal funding to pay for the city's massive security costs during a trial in lower Manhattan. But, like Bloomberg, he had not called for moving the trial outside the city.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly previously estimated the cost of security in lower Manhattan for the trial at more than $200 million a year.
Proposed security measures, including steel barriers throughout the neighborhood, rooftop snipers and street closures, have infuriated local residents and business owners fearful of the economic and emotional impact.
Julie Menin, chairwoman of CB 1, has been pushing to move the trial, citing the impact on a community that is still recovering from 9/11. "Someone has to stand up and say this is unacceptable," she said. "Why on earth would we hold this trial in the financial capital of the nation when we're struggling to dig out of a recession?"
Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said a terror trial would have a devastating impact on tourism, retail and residential development in a neighborhood that has already suffered from the terror attacks.
"The dramatic economic impact to the city of New York and lower Manhattan will be enormous," he said.
Menin said she has been reaching out to lawmakers and members of New York's congressional delegation to build support for a new trial location.
House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) vowed yesterday to keep the trials out of downtown Manhattan.
"There is not going to be a trial in New York," he said. "I guarantee it. There is no appetite for the trials in Congress."
Boehner insisted that the White House can't shift the trials without congressional approval.
Asked for a comment yesterday, a spokesman for the Department of Justice referred back to a statement last week, insisting the trial could be held safely in lower Manhattan federal court.