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After being snubbed by NYC, attorneys plan to sue for documents on 9/11 toxins

Thomas Tracy, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

The attorneys filed the FOIL requests on behalf of 9/11 Health Watch and the families of first responders who died of 9/11 illnesses including Firefighter Robert Fitzgibbon and NYPD Det. Luis Alvarez. They asked for whatever data former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was aware of about toxic chemicals at Ground Zero in the months after the attacks.

The FOIL request asked for “documents, reports, assessments” about the toxins, dust and fumes that came from the destroyed World Trade Center and other information about future health threats to 9/11 first responders and survivors.

On Feb. 29, the DEP denied the appeal, claiming it did a diligent search but found no records.

Last week, the mayor’s office extended the deadline of when it will respond to their FOIL requests. Other agencies the attorneys are waiting to hear from include the Design and Construction Department, the Health Department, the City Council and the Law Department.

“It’s really a sort of a three card monte game that they have going,” Chevat said, adding that some of the information Carboy is seeking is on the DEP website.

“The city DEP is saying that they have no records?” Chevat asked. “That they conducted a diligent search? Not sure how diligent they were if they did not look at their own website.”

Carboy is currently working on an Article 78 legal motion challenging the city’s denial. An Article 78 action is a special proceeding that can be used to challenge New York agencies. If the motion is successful, a judge could order the city to produce the requested records.

Under FOIL, the city may withhold documents if their release would endanger public safety.


“Here, the requested historical records may demonstrate how the city endangered public safety, more than 22 years ago,” Carboy said.

“The release of the documents today could even promote public health and safety, enabling additional research for medical care and treatment of individuals affected by World Trade Center toxins,” he added.

One city official said uncovering the paperwork from these 9/11 studies posed a challenge because many documents at the time weren’t digitized, requiring the agencies to dig into decades-old paper records.

Others have told Carboy the reports may have been destroyed over the last two decades. Some even inexplicably suggested the documents about Ground Zero toxins were destroyed during the terror attack.

“We do not accept that records created after Sept. 11th were destroyed on Sept. 11th, as some of the responses suggest,” Carboy said. “If there is some greater plan to release the records through the Mayor’s Office, as opposed to through the DEP or Office of Emergency Management, which denied our requests, we are unaware of it.”

An estimated 400,000 people were exposed to ground zero toxins on 9/11 and the days that followed, including 91,000 first responders, 57,000 residents who lived south of Canal St. and 15,000 students and administrators at lower Manhattan schools, according to city statistics.


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