New York Daily News

June 16, 2005

WTC pension bill signed by Pataki

BY RICK HARRISON
DAILY NEWS WRITER

Public employees who worked at Ground Zero will find it easier to qualify for disability pensions under a bill Gov. Pataki signed yesterday at Battery Park.

"We've thanked them in our words time and time again," Pataki said of workers who picked through the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center. "But today we are going to thank them in our deeds."

The new law - which Pataki estimated would affect about 30 people a year - entitles any city or state worker to receive a 75% disability pension if they were injured or contracted certain diseases after working 40 or more hours at Ground Zero, the Fresh Kills landfill or the city morgue.

Disability-causing diseases covered by the legislation include cancer, respiratory illness and certain skin conditions, which are now legally presumed to be job-related unless an employer can prove otherwise.

"God knows we had no idea what we were breathing down there," Pataki said, standing in front of the dented sphere sculpture recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage.

Mayor Bloomberg had resisted the bill - sponsored by state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn) - citing its potential drain on the city's finances.

Pataki had vetoed a similar bill in 2003 that did not require disability applicants to have worked 40 hours in recovery efforts after 9/11.

Workers have two years from yesterday to apply for disability pensions.