Washington, DC— Today, Representatives Jerrold Nadler (NY-12) and Dan Goldman (NY-10) wrote to New York City Mayor Eric Adams calling for the city to finally release any documents related to 9/11 from the period of September 11, 2001 through the spring of 2002—and help provide injured and ill 9/11 responders, survivors, and their families a better understanding of the origins of what they have faced.
In their letter to Mayor Adams, the Members write, “For years, the City’s failure to disclose documents regarding the harmful impacts of the toxins released in the 9/11 attack has directly harmed September 11th responders, recovery workers, residents, and survivors. These residents and survivors include young people who were in schools and daycares in downtown Manhattan on 9/11 and during clean-up that continue to experience adverse health effects at high rates.
Information in the City’s records pertaining to the earliest analyses of the toxins, dust, and fumes blanketing lower Manhattan and Brooklyn will likely inform and advance medical research conducted on behalf of those struggling with 9/11 illnesses, including those who were children at the time of the attacks.”
“Throughout my two decades of work with the 9/11 community to guarantee their health care and compensation, we have faced resistance from many in the federal government—namely to admitting that the toxins released in the attacks and during cleanup posed a serious and ongoing health hazard to those on the pile and in the vicinity,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler. “Now, thousands of responders and survivors are living with, and many are dying from, 9/11 related health conditions caused by exposure to those toxins over 20 years ago. It’s time to finally uncover what exactly the Giuliani administration knew about the toxins at Ground Zero while they were claiming it was safe for New Yorkers to return.”
"Living in downtown Manhattan on September 11th, I will never forget watching the second plane hit the Towers and the soot-covered people walking up Hudson Street. And I also won’t forget the promises made to survivors and first responders that Ground Zero was safe from toxins,” said Representative Dan Goldman. “Now more than 20 years later, we know that promise was false. It is long past time for full disclosure of what the City knew about harmful toxins circulating lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attack and how long it knew of the dangers. This information is not only important for transparency but it is essential so we can better address medial problems arising out of exposure to those toxins, especially for those who were children at the time."
The Representatives are joined in this effort by a host of community-based organizations and advocates.
Benjamin Chevat, Executive Director, 911 Health Watch: “Representatives Nadler and Goldman are right to call on the City to open up their files. Mayor Adams needs to overrule the City’s lawyers who appear to be advocating a continued cover up of what the Giuliani Administration knew about the toxins that were released on lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and when did they know it.”
Kimberly Flynn, Director, 9/11 Environmental Action: “After 9/11, Mayor Giuliani and his administration engaged in an extended campaign to deceive New Yorkers about the dangers in the dust and smoke. Yes, the EPA lied when Christine ToddWhitman declared that the ‘air is safe’ -- but the Mayor of NYC and City agencies were in lock step with that lie. City agencies, like the Department of Education and the Department of Health, put the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of Lower Manhattan residents, students and workers at risk. Everyone whose health was affected by toxic exposures that could have been prevented is entitled to full accountability and transparency. And we all need to know what went wrong so that the same bad decisions are not repeated if, God forbid, there is a future disaster.”
Mariama James, Lower Manhattan resident, 9/11 Survivor advocate, District Leader AD 65 Part C: “Representatives Nadler and Goldman are stepping forward to push for the truth. New Yorkers need to know what really happened here - especially now that we know how many people are suffering from WTC-related toxic exposures. The City lied -- they told parents and residents that we should not be concerned. That the kids could all go back to school. And all we needed was a HEPA filter and HEPA vacuum in our homes. Literally, my entire immediate family is sick as a result of the EPA and the City's misleading us. We demand accountability. Any and every representative of Lower Manhattan and the 9/11 community needs to get behind Nadler and Goldman's urgent demand.Show me the records!”
Aixa Torres, President of Alfred E. Smith Houses Residents Association: “The Alfred E. Smith Houses are the closest NYCHA complex to Ground Zero. Our 12 buildings were permeated with dust from the WTC collapses, our grounds were covered and the WTC smoke plume flowed through our apartments on many nights while the fires burned. But when we asked for help, we were told by the feds and the City that we had no problem. Now, we have many residents with cancer, and we are seeing a rising toll of deaths. We have a right to know how the City’s disastrous decisions were made.”
Joel Kupferman, Esq. Executive Director, Environmental Justice Initiative / New York Environmental Law and Justice Project: “Within days of 9/11, as an environmental attorney, I worked to expose the false claims that the air was safe being made by multiple agencies and officials, especially the EPA Administrator and the Mayor of New York City. I pushed back on a cover-up by agencies at the federal, state and city levels and I continue to press for the truth. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Full transparency is the necessary for full accountability and information may well be relevant to treatment for WTC conditions. Finally, it is essential to learning the lessons of the City’s failed response to the WTC environmental disaster.”
Esther Regelson, 109 Washington St. Residents: “I am a survivor of the 9/11 attacks who has lived and worked two blocks from the World Trade Center site for the last 40 years. Since 9/11, I have suffered ill effects both mentally and physically from the fallout of that event. It is of utmost importance that my neighbors and I have access to the real truth behind the City’s assertion that it was safe to return to our homes when toxins still permeated the vicinity and our lives would be endangered. We have a right to know what happened behind closed doors among the powerful decision makers who failed to act in the best interests of the citizens of New York.”
Mary Perillo, 125 Cedar Street Residents: “It is unacceptable for New York City to continue to protect the Giuliani administration over disclosing the truth to 9/11 responders and survivors about the extent of the harm caused by the toxins at Ground Zero. Refusing to disclose these records goes against the City’s stated commitment to ensuring that responders, survivors, and their families are supported.”
The full text of the letter can be found below and here.
The Honorable Eric Adams
Mayor of New York City
New York, NY 10007
February 16, 2023
Dear Mayor Adams:
We are writing to you again to renew the request that the City of New York finally, after more than 20 years, fully disclose what the Giuliani Administration knew about the harmful impacts of the toxins released in the 9/11 attacks, the subsequent cleanup, and when it knew this information.
This letter is to follow up on letters sent to then-Mayor DeBlasio on September 20, 2021, and to you on May 12, 2022, asking the City to finally open its files on the aftermath of the attacks—and help provide injured and ill 9/11 responders, survivors, and their families a better understanding of the origins of what they have faced.
We have enclosed copies of those letters and your response on July 6, 2022.
It is long past time for full disclosure of the City’s records. While more than 20 years have passed, we still do not know the full impact of that day and the aftermath on the health of thousands of New Yorkers, and the full extent of what the City knew at the time.
For years, the City’s failure to disclose documents regarding the harmful impacts of the toxins released in the 9/11 attack has directly harmed September 11th responders, recovery workers, residents, and survivors. These residents and survivors include young people who were in schools and daycares in downtown Manhattan on 9/11 and during clean-up that continue to experience adverse health effects at high rates.
Information in the City’s records pertaining to the earliest analyses of the toxins, dust, and fumes blanketing lower Manhattan and Brooklyn will likely inform and advance medical research conducted on behalf of those struggling with 9/11 illnesses, including those who were children at the time of the attacks.
While we understand that the City is concerned about its liability, releasing the records will likely help to save lives.
To better address the public health impact of the attacks on children, Congress acted in December to authorize the creation by the World Trade Center Health Program of a new research cohort of the nearly 35,000 people who were children on 9/11 and were brought back into lower Manhattan and western Brooklyn to live and go to school or daycare in the months after the attacks while the wreckage was still smoldering.
At the same time, Congress had to authorize an additional $1 billion to the World Trade Center Health Program because of increasing costs caused by rising enrollment and increasing diagnoses of multiple conditions—especially cancers—to address a $3 billion-dollar projected shortfall in the program.
Based on New York Times reporting (“Ground Zero Illnesses Clouding Giuliani’s Legacy”May 14, 2007), we know that while then-Mayor Giuliani’s administration was saying publicly that the air was safe to breathe, they were privately predicting 10,000 liability claims for injuries from toxic exposures.
“Whatever they were saying publicly about the safety of the air, Mr. Giuliani and his staff were privately worried. A memo to Deputy Mayor Robert M. Harding from his assistant in early October said that the city faced as many as 10,000 liability claims connected to 9/11, “including toxic tort cases that might arise in the next few decades.”
But that is the extent of what we know.
That’s because, following your July 6, 2022 reply to our letter, our staff met with the City Corporation Counsel staff. Despite the benefits that releasing the records could mean for informing and advancing medical research conducted on behalf of those struggling with 9/11 illnesses, Corporation Counsel attorneys clearly stated they have a strong incentive to keep any 9/11 aftermath documents privileged because otherwise, the city would be liable for those claims.
In addition to records pertaining to the earliest analyses of the toxins, dust, and fumes blanketing lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, we request transparency on what the Giuliani administration knew about the health risks at Ground Zero and how they potentially covered up that information to finally provide transparency to a too-often overlooked aspect of the attack’s history.
We are joined in this call be a host of community-based organizations and are attaching five letters sent to you in September of 2022.
We hope and believe that you will direct the City’s Department of Investigations to conduct a thorough search of the available records from the then-Mayor’s office, the City Departments of Health, Education, Police, Fire, Design and Construction and Emergency Management to name the most likely agencies that need their files reviewed.
We specifically believe New Yorkers need to see the following:
1. Release of the full copy of the memo from the Giuliani administration from Deputy Mayor Robert M. Harding from October 2001 and any correspondence that led to his writing and drafting of this memo.
2. Any internal notes or memos regarding the Department of Education’s decision to move kids and teachers back into schools in the frozen zone below Houston. We know that there were parents who expressed strong concerns and even protested this move. What were the deliberations in the DOE? What testing was done to determine the safety of the schools?
3. Any records, communications, or memos from the New York City Departments of Health and the Environmental Protection that address the scope and toxicity of the WTC plume and the dust, and the exposures New Yorkers experienced.
We have faith that you will not allow this to continue and that you will order the City’s agencies to fully disclose what the Giuliani administration knew about the toxins at Ground Zero while they were saying it was safe for New Yorkers to return. We look forward to receiving your response.
Jerrold Nadler Dan Goldman
Member of Congress Member of Congress
 Anthony DePalma, Ground Zero Illnesses Clouding Giuliani’s Legacy, N.Y. Times (May 14, 2007), https://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/14/nyregion/14giuliani.html.