New York Daily News

November 5, 2007

WTC cop's kin and politicians back Daily News on WTC panel

BY STEPHANIE GASKELL
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

A Daily News proposal to evaluate the claims of first responders who die after working at Ground Zero won wide support Saturday from politicians and union leaders - as well as from the family of James Zadroga.

The decorated 34-year-old NYPD detective died of lung problems in January 2006, but city Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch ruled it was not related to his 400 hours working at The Pile.

In an editorial yesterday, The News urged Mayor Bloomberg to create an independent panel to allow for "clearer standards and greater transparency" in determining who died from World Trade Center exposure - a decision now made by Hirsch alone.

The detective's father, Joseph Zadroga, said he hopes a panel would reevaluate his son's case, with a firefighter and a cop on the panel "just to keep an eye on the henhouse, so to speak."

Bloomberg has backed Hirsch's ruling and said Zadroga was "not a hero." Advocates for 9/11 workers will rally outside City Hall today, where Joseph Zadroga is scheduled to meet with Bloomberg - and hopes to change the mayor's mind.

"I'm going to ask him if he will start from square one," Zadroga said. "Let's just discuss this with an open mind rather than in a political sense. Let's talk about this man to man."

The News' plan also won support in Congress, where the city has fought to win funding for 9/11 workers' health troubles.

"Why not be proactive [and create] one single, consistent standard?" asked Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.).

"The mayor was right when he said that for decades to come we're going to have to make decisions about whether yet another American has died as a result of 9/11," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens).

"This process cannot rest in the hands of one person in one office. I strongly support the Daily News' call."

Added Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan): "It's not right for one person to decide this in secret."

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Hirsch has a conflict of interest as an employee of the city, which would be liable for any payouts.

"A panel is more likely to consider all circumstances, while the city will view them from a litigation and liability standpoint," Lynch said.

"This was a blatant act of politics," said Michael Palladino, head of the Detectives' Endowment Association. "If Hirsch can't guarantee a fair shake, he should step aside and recuse himself from 9/11 cases."

sgaskell@nydailynews.com