Taking care of 9/11 survivors

While the health care debate goes into what perhaps will be the homestretch, an important but less monumental health bill is quietly entering one of the smaller halls of Congress where legislation is usually saved, gutted or killed. The bill would provide health care to first responders and survivors of the Sept. 11 attack on America in Lower Manhattan.

This Tuesday the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act begins a “markup” hearing in the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The provision providing care to residents and workers suffering with respiratory ailments, cancer and other illnesses believed to have been caused by the environmental fallout from the attack is in danger of being struck from the bill.

The 9/11 health centers at Bellevue, Gouverneur and Elmhurst hospitals provide care for over 4,000 people whom doctors believe are sick from the terrorist attack. The hospitals also are compiling invaluable tracking information if new and even more severe complications surface in the coming years. [Full disclosure: A member of our editorial staff has made limited use of the program.]

The entire cost of the bill including health care for first responders is capped at $5.1 billion, a tiny sum by Washington standards particularly since the House sponsors in New York already have a way to pay for it. (They’re not making it public yet because of the justifiable fear it will be used for something else if their colleagues find out about it now.)

President Obama has put money in the budget to fund the program next year, but the year-to-year budget battles keep this vital program constantly on the chopping block. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey heads the health subcommittee taking up the bill next week. Call his office at 202-225-4671 and let him hear from some of those most directly affected by this bill.

Celebrating a library

There are perhaps some uninformed and not-so-well read people out there who think libraries are a thing of the past with today’s technology. To that we say “OMG.” After we posted our article last week about the opening of the Battery Park City Library, we noticed quite a number of our readers were tweeting links to it even before we had a chance to tweet about it ourselves. The point is that even on a newer forum like Twitter, people get excited about a library.

And in particular, this branch opening on Monday in B.P.C. is something to be excited about. No disrespect at all to the humbling philanthropic efforts of Andrew Carnegie, who built so many of our city’s libraries, but the Battery Park City branch has things rarely if ever seen in an N.Y.C. library — lots of natural light, airiness and even a river view!

There are many who deserve thanks for getting this library built including the Battery Park City Authority, which donated the space for 50 years, Goldman Sachs, which provided almost half the money to build it, former Councilmember Alan Gerson and Community Board 1. A special thank you goes to two neighbors, Percy Corcoran and Marti Cohen-Wolf, who never gave up fighting for it to be built.

So stop on by Monday, or head over to the celebration ceremonies March 18 or just go on over to North End Ave. and Vesey St. anytime you want to get lost anywhere in the universe.

The new Battery Park City Library will hold a grand opening ceremony next Thurs., March 18 at 10 a.m., followed by a tour of the building’s environmentally friendly features at 11 a.m. and an open house with free programs for all ages from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The library at 175 N. End Ave. will open its doors for the first time a few days earlier, on Mon., March 15 at 10 a.m. and will be open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $6.7 million, 10,000-square-foot library has more than 15,300 books and more than 7,400 non-print items like CDs and DVDs. For more on the B.P.C. Library, read our article in last week’s issue at downtownexpress.com or visit nypl.org/locations/battery-park-city.