January 9, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Last fall, Jake Lemonda, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association [UFOA], urged federal lawmakers to show some backbone and finally renew legislation that aids 9/11 first responders – this week, the City Council echoed that sentiment, urging new members of the United States Congress to waste no time reauthorizing the Zadroga Act.
The Zadroga Act, passed in 2011 and named in honor of the late James Zadroga, extends vital health care and compensation to surviving 9/11 first responders suffering the ongoing effects of their valiant rescue attempts almost 14 years ago.
The measure, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, however, has since become just another partisan political football, and could expire next year without reauthorization.
In introducing the special City Council resolution calling on Congress to get its act together, Civil Service and Labor Committee Chair I. Daneek Miller said the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001, by individuals and families, have had a “far-reaching impact on the lives of countless responders.”
“Today, we stand behind these individuals and families in an effort to ensure that proper attention to health care and compensation is given to those who gave us their best and, in some cases, their all,” Councilman Miller said. “For this reason, we are calling on Congress and the president to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.”
In Septmeber, Lemonda told LaborPress that it is time for bickering politicians to be “as brave as all those people that responded that day.”
“This week marks the ninth anniversary of my son James Zadroga’s death,” Joe Zadroga said in a statement. “Much has happened in that time. The true toll exacted by 9/11 has unfolded slowly. We lost people when the planes struck. And we lost people when the buildings collapsed. Still more, like Jimmy, would develop horrible lung ailments in the wake of 9/11. And now we know from scientific data and NIOSH that thousands have been stricken with cancer linked to the WTC toxic dust.”
When LaborPress last sat down with Lemonda this past fall, three retired firefighters suffering from 9/11-related illness had just died on the very same day.
Five NYPD detectives battling 9/11 related illness also prematurely passed away in 2014. The oldest was just 52.
“The first responders continue to pay a terrible price for the work they did at Ground Zero,” Joe Zadroga added. “The only thing that these sick men and women did wrong was to believe the EPA’s pronouncement that ‘the air is safe.’ Five years after Jimmy’s death, Congress did something wonderful to help those who had been stricken with 9/11 illnesses. It fulfilled a promise to provide health care and compensation to those who needed it. There is no greater way to honor the memory of my son, and the hundreds of other first responders who have passed away as a result of their toxic exposure, than by extending the law which bears his name.”
About 30,000 people, including more than 800 members of the FDNY, and 550 members of the NYPD, continue to battle against 9/11 related illnesses.
According to Terry Miles, executive director, NYC HHC World Trade Center Environmental Health Center, the more than 8,100 patients who have enrolled in the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation's World Trade Center Environmental Health Center – the only WTC-related health program for non-first responders who lived, worked or were in school in the designated 9/11 zone – are suffering from lower- and upper-respiratory disease, severe gastroesophageal reflux disease, numerous cancers, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety and depression.
Miles said reauthorization of the Zadroga Act is “critical” for those patients, while City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called it a “moral obligation.”
“Any reduction at all in available funding for the Zadroga program would be horrific,” said Leroy McGinnis, recording secretary, Uniformed Firefighters Association [UFA]. “When our city and nation was attacked New York City Firefighters never paused once to ask if our government would be there to protect them, should they ever become sick or die as result of responding to the 9/11 attacks. Over 100 of our Firefighters who worked in the rescue, recovery and clean-up operations have since died, with thousands more sick.”
Guille Mejia, director of the District Council 37 Safety and Health Department, said that none of those who selflessly answered the call on 9/11 should be forgotten.
"District Council 37 members performed essential functions and tasks on 9/11 and the days and weeks that followed," Mejia said. "Their selfless commitment in restoring this great city was realized without concern for their well-being. These heroes’ plights cannot be discounted and therefore it is essential to reauthorize the James Zadroga Act.”