New York Post
September 15, 2006

Mike Finally Sees the Light on 9/11 Illness

By CARL CAMPANILE and DAVID SEIFMAN

After saying recently that he saw no link between Ground Zero and first-responder illnesses, Mayor Bloomberg yesterday said he found it "very troublesome" that workers were getting sick and worried they will suffer from serious diseases "five and 10 years from now."

Bloomberg's grave concerns about World Trade Center illnesses came as he endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's plan for the federal government to put up $2 billion to test and treat Ground Zero workers, residents and volunteers over the next five years.

Some critics of government efforts to help sick people welcomed Bloomberg's comments.

They said it was a shift in tone after weeks of questioning whether illnesses were linked to Ground Zero pollutants and opposing state legislation to help sick WTC workers and their families.

"Clearly, people who worked on the site . . . the closer they were, the more symptoms they have that are very troublesome. In a couple of cases those troublesome symptoms have turned into more than that," Bloomberg said.

"I'm particularly concerned about people five and 10 years from now that will come down with diseases that may or may not have been caused [by WTC toxins]. And if they were caused, then making sure we have the monies available to take care of them."

Bloomberg was very clear that the federal government should foot the bill for medical treatment, and applauded Clinton's proposal to do that.

"This was a national attack on the country, and I think the federal government has a responsibility," the mayor said.

"We cannot handle this ourselves. We just don't have enough money."

Critics of the government response said Bloomberg was changing his tune.

"His tone is taking a shift toward acknowledging injuries caused to Ground Zero workers. Why has Mayor Bloomberg come to this conclusion five years later?" said Marc Jay Bern, a lawyer representing some 6,000 sick Ground Zero workers in a class-action suit.

Bern said he's now waiting for Bloomberg to match his deeds to his words by compensating sick workers instead of fighting them in court.

Kimberly Flynn of 9/11 Environmental Action said Bloomberg is taking "baby steps" toward recognizing the health crisis.

"The recognition is late," she said, "but better late than never."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), who represents Ground Zero and downtown, said, "The health crisis is becoming harder and harder for anyone to ignore."

Caroline Maloney (D-Manhattan) said, "Everyone but the federal government agrees that this is a federal responsibility."

Meanwhile, during a City Council hearing yesterday, labor leaders flunked the government's response to 9/11 health woes.

"The government has failed the workers who were made ill in every facet of health-related issues," said PBA President Patrick Lynch.

carl.campanile@nypost.com