Hunt for remains near Ground Zero is to be expanded

Rebuilt road could cover body parts, report says

October 28, 2006|By Herbert Lowe | Herbert Lowe,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK -- A renewed search for human remains at Ground Zero will be expanded to a service road there, several area streets and the rooftops of two nearby buildings, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg announced yesterday.

Two city and state agencies looking into the recovery of remains at the World Trade Center site expressed particular concern about a 60-foot-wide service road running the length of the site from Liberty Street to Vesey Street.

That road, just inside the trade center's western edge, was rebuilt in March 2002 as part of the post-Sept. 11 cleanup.

"A layer of debris may still exist above the crushed original roadway surface, but below the base of the existing haul road," the agencies concluded in a nine-page report to Edward Skyler, the city's deputy mayor for administration.

Last week, Skyler ordered the city Department of Design and Construction and the state Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center to offer recommendations after human bones were found inside a manhole. Since then, workers have found more than 200 body parts inside manholes along the service road, officials said.

In the report, the agencies also called for searching the rooftops of the Millennium Hotel and One Liberty Place, and 140 Liberty St., the former site of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. The Liberty Street site is now an access road and staging area for construction vehicles.

"Here, too, it is possible that the excavation for the construction of the site's current condition was not deep enough to ensure that all WTC debris was removed," the report said.

The actual trade center site will not be part of a new search effort.

Skyler said he expected the new effort to take about a year.

In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg said the city would take all proper care in its search for human remains at Ground Zero.

"Can you keep looking forever? I suppose there's no limit," he said. "But you have do what's reasonable and what's right. They did it before, and we've discovered another place to look. We'll do that. If, two years from now, somebody would come up with an idea ... we'll look at it then."

Many relatives of Sept. 11 victims continue to urge the city to bring in military experts to help with the search. They contend that if it isn't done correctly now, new remains could be found many years from now.

Norman Siegel, an attorney representing a group called WTC Families for Proper Burial, called the city's announcement "a step in the right direction" but "still inadequate because the search being expanded is not large enough and not comprehensive enough."

Siegel said the western service road should be "totally ripped up" and that the search should continue along Vesey Street.

The report concluded that wasn't necessary. "We consider Vesey Street to be clear of WTC debris," it stated.

Skyler said the families' wishes are being taken seriously.

"Most of the areas that they requested that we look at are in the report, and one of the ones that is not in the report" - a grassy area along where the 1/9 subway train passes underneath Greenwich Street - "we will look at because of their request," he said.

Herbert Lowe writes for Newsday.

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