New York Daily News

Dec. 28, 2011


 

Court finds 9/11 toxins likely caused NYPD Officer Frank Macri's fatal cancer

9/11 ruling means better benefits for Frank Macri's family

BY Larry Mcshane & Barbara Ross
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

  The late NYPD Police Officer Frank Macri, shown here with wife, Nilda, died of what she argues is 9/11-related cancer. A top court has now backed her contention.
  Above: The late NYPD Police Officer Frank Macri, shown here with wife, Nilda, died of what she argues is 9/11-related cancer. A top court has now backed her contention.
Photo: Susan Watts/New York Daily News

The widow of a city cop killed by lung cancer after two months of toxic post-9/11 duty won a bitter four-year fight Tuesday to collect enhanced line-of-duty death benefits.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Nilda Macri, whose husband Frank was an iron-pumping, non-smoking housing officer known for his buff physique.

“I’m so happy he’s finally acknowledged,” said a teary Nilda Macri after the victory that could benefit other World Trade Center first responders battling cancer.

The decision overturned rulings by the police Medical Board and the Police Pension Fund Board that Macri’s lethal cancer was pre-existing — despite a clean X-ray taken when the hero first responder was injured by debris from the falling towers on 9/11.

  Nilda Macri, widow of NYPD Officer and 9/11 first responder Frank Macri, can claim more lucrative benefits package after the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court rejected the city’s argument that his lung cancer pre-dated his work amid toxic World Trade Center debris.
  

Nilda Macri, widow of NYPD Officer and 9/11 first responder Frank Macri, can claim more lucrative benefits package after the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court rejected the city’s argument that his lung cancer pre-dated his work amid toxic World Trade Center debris.
Photo: Bryan Pace for New York Daily News

“There is no evidence to support the medical board’s conclusion ...that Macri’s cancer was pre-existing,” the court said in a 10-page ruling. “Indeed, there is evidence that just the opposite was the case.”

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch said the appeals court ruling was crucial for other ailing first responders fighting the same benefits battle.

And it pointed up the need for the federal government to include cancer as a covered illness under the Zadroga bill, Lynch said.

“The shame of it is that the Macri family and others like them are being forced to fight for the support they clearly deserve,” said the union president.

Macri — a fitness fanatic nicknamed “Gym” for his frequent workouts — died in 2007 after a five-year struggle with lung cancer. He was 52.

The six-year NYPD veteran worked about 350 hours in the toxic dust and fumes, first at Ground Zero through Oct. 1, 2001, and then at Fresh Kills landfill from Nov. 1, 2001, through January 2002.

Seven months later, Macri was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that soon attacked his brain, liver and lungs. Macri died just nine days short of the sixth anniversary of 9/11.

But his widow was shot down in October 2007 in her efforts to get her husband’s death declared eligible for line-of-duty combat benefits.

With help from the PBA, she challenged the pension rulings and finally scored a major victory with the appeals court ruling.

Keith Snow, senior counsel in the Pensions Division of the New York City Law Department, said officials were “reviewing the decision.”

Unless the city appeals, Nilda Macri will receive a tax-free pension of 75% of her husband's salary instead of 50% minus the taxes.

The widow burst into tears at the thought that her late husband can now join the other 9/11 victims memorialized at Ground Zero.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am about that,” she said, her voice choked with emotion. “... I’m happy he’s finally being honored.”

bross@nydailynews.com