"Ground Zero" Elected Officials Task Force Works to Highlight and Meet Urgent and Long-term Needs of Disaster Area Residents and Businesses

Sep 20, 2001 Issues: 9/11 Attacks

An elderly homebound woman who lives in Independence Plaza in Tribeca found herself on Thursday, September 12th without the ability to refill the prescription for her critical heart medication.  She, along with thousands of others Downtown residents and business owners, have reached out to their elected officials, to get help with a unimaginable variety of problems associated with the fallout of the September 11th World Trade Center tragedy.  These constituents have gotten many of their needs met because elected officials representing the “Ground Zero” area have banded together to form a Task Force aimed specifically at highlighting and meeting the needs of disaster area residents and businesses.  The Task Force has already been successful in getting results for constituents in the affected area by working closely with the Mayor, Governor, and disaster management officials.

Immediately following the tragedy, US Congressman Jerrold Nadler convened the “Ground Zero” Elected Officials Task Force, which is comprised of the Congressman, Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, NYS Senator Martin Connor, NYS Senator Tom Duane, NYS Assemblymember Deborah Glick, NYC Councilmember Kathryn Freed, NYC Councilmember Margarita Lopez, and Community Board 1.

The Task Force has been working since day one of the tragedy to create, among the elected officials representing constituent individuals and businesses in ‘Ground Zero’ or the disaster debris field, a consensus regarding needs to be communicated directly to the Mayor, the Governor and disaster management officials. In doing so, the Task Force has sought to maximize operational efficiency and to avoid duplication of effort, circular communication, and lack of sensible prioritization of needs. The Task Force will also use its own resources to provide disaster officials with on-the-ground information and aid directly in providing high-level constituent services.

Following each meeting of the Task Force, a memorandum is issued to City, State and Federal officials requesting that certain agreed-upon needs be addressed.   The issues have included making sure that home-bound “Frozen Zone” residents have been able to get prescription medication; requesting that environmental and health officials release residential and small business clean-up protocols and do air and dust-quality testing in downtown residential areas; and establishing a dedicated hotline for Battery Park City residents so that they can get up-to date information on the status of their buildings and apartments.  The Task Force has also provided disaster management officials with on-the-ground information such as the need for food restocking in Frozen Zone grocery stores and the need to credential home-care workers for access into the perimeter areas.  In addition, the Task Force has provided supportive services, such as facilitating the movement of mobile health units into the Frozen Zone, so that area residents could receive free, immediately- accessible health care.

The Mayor, the Governor and disaster management officials have been extremely responsive to the Task Force’s requests and have repeatedly expressed appreciation that all such needs are being channeled through a central body.  As a result of the Task Force’s work, individual elected officials’ offices have been much better equipped to response to the barrage of constituent service calls.

The Task Force will continue to work on issues affecting those who live, work and own businesses in the affected area. The Task Force meets on a regular basis.

The Task Force can be contacted at (212) 367-7350 x15 or (917) 691-4823.

Ex-officio members of the Task Force include the NYC Public Advocate, the NYC Comptroller, Community Board 3, and the Downtown Alliance.