Extend V.C.F. boundary

We urge Special Master Sheila Birnbaum to extend the boundaries for eligibility for the Victim Compensation Fund portion of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act to match the same northernmost boundary for the bill’s healthcare portion.

Currently the northern boundary for the healthcare portion is Houston St. while the northern boundary for the V.C.F. portion is Reade St. This modification must be completed before regulations are finalized in September.

Birnbaum and her advisors at the U.S. Department of Justice determined the current V.C.F. boundaries in Manhattan and Brooklyn based on satellite and aerial images of the initial dust cloud. We don’t feel this is an appropriate method of determining the range of toxic exposure.

On the other hand, the geographic range determined for the bill’s health portion — again, which is Houston St. at the north — is, fittingly, based on medical evidence provided by the World Trade Center health clinics and published research. This is sound proof that 9/11-related illnesses impacted a larger number of civilians than those merely within in the V.C.F.’s current range.

Though the initial dust cloud might have visibly dispersed up to Reade St., the contamination spread much farther. Residents in Soho, Tribeca, the Lower East Side and the Village all can attest to this fact. Some of these residents were displaced from their homes, while others developed acute and unusual respiratory ailments from exposure to the Ground Zero toxins.

Still others have scientific evidence of hazardous exposure: A test conducted in 2004 at Independence Plaza North, the large Tribeca apartment complex, revealed elevated amounts of asbestos in the window tracks.

We recognize the potential challenge in expanding the catchment area. There are only a limited amount of available funds allotted to the V.C.F. and, the greater the number of applicants, the smaller the compensation packages that might be granted for each claimant. But financial limitations shouldn’t deter the federal government from offering compensation to those well worthy of it.

We applaud Birnbaum for being open to discussion with Downtown residents and other constituents. Since she seems to genuinely care about the well-being of all those who were in harm’s way on that tragic day, we are confident that she will seriously consider the plea from the approximately 100 individuals who took time to submit their comments.

Although 100 people submitted comments, the number of people who would be affected by this decision — and who were potentially affected by 9/11’s toxic fallout — is far, far greater. That’s what’s at stake here.