City lawmaker to lead protest of terror trialsBY ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO
February 9, 2010
While President Barack Obama still hasn't ruled out Manhattan as a site for the Sept. 11 terror trial, New Yorkers are expected to troop to City Hall tomorrow - weather permitting - to sound off against the idea.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who heads the City Council's public safety committee, yesterday scheduled the hearing for 1 p.m. tomorrow.
"This will be a chance for New Yorkers to speak out," Vallone told Newsday. Community and business groups are expected to attend.
However, a number of key public officials are expected to be no-shows. A City Hall spokesman said neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor any of his commissioners, including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, will be attending the hearing. One city politician who asked not to be identified said that City Hall is staying away in order to give Obama some time to make his trial venue decision and to try to avoid embarrassing him politically.
Vallone's convening of the hearing comes a day after Obama, in a televised news interview, said he wouldn't rule out the trial happening in federal court in Manhattan. Yesterday, in response to Obama, Bloomberg reiterated his preference for the trial to be moved, but added skeptically that the city expects the federal government to pay for security costs if the case stays local.
"Keep in mind ... we have always had skepticism because a lot of times the federal government promises to pay and then the monies don't come," Bloomberg told reporters.
Bloomberg and the police have estimated that first-year trial security costs for the NYPD would amount to $216 million, mostly in overtime. Additional years are estimated to cost $200 million.
A Department of Justice spokesman couldn't be reached late yesterday.
Vallone admits that he is keeping a cautious eye on the weather reports, which are predicting a significant snowfall for the metropolitan area tomorrow. The later scheduled start to the hearing could help people travel to the Council chamber even if it does snow, said a hopeful Vallone.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) was awaiting an invitation from Vallone yesterday and said he would attend the hearing unless there were votes scheduled that day in Congress. Because of Washington, D.C.'s record-breaking snowfall over the weekend, and a second storm in the works, King said voting in the House of Representatives might be delayed long enough for him to attend Vallone's hearing.
An opponent of the terror trials, King said Obama needs to make a decision soon about the trial. "It is time for him to show leadership; either they are going to do it [the Manhattan trial] or not; we shouldn't be so indecisive," said King.
A spokesman for Sen. Charles Schumer, who opposes a Manhattan trial, couldn't be reached.