Updated 02/08/2010 10:41 PM
City Council To Hold Hearing On Proposed Terror Trials
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The City Council is stepping into the controversy over the upcoming September 11th terror trials, announcing a hearing that will take place Wednesday on the federal government's plans to hold the trials in Lower Manhattan.
In November, the federal government announced that it will try self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged terrorists at the federal courthouse on Pearl Street.
The Justice Department has said it is considering options other than Manhattan Federal Court, following criticism by elected officials like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson, along with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, about the cost and security issues involved.
"The decision was made with no input from New York City," said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. "This is a chance for us to finally give some input."
"If required, we will do it," said the mayor. "It would be disruptive to people in the neighborhood, so my personal preference is that it would be elsewheres."
The council hearing will likely give opponents more opportunities to air their concerns.
"I think it's very bad for the community,” said one local resident. “I mean, you look, it's a residential area and businesses and whatever. I mean, I think it should be taken care of in another venue."
"I do believe that the trial shouldn't be held here,” said another. “Because of the cost, it's going to cost New York City. And it might be too traumatizing for the victims' families, being they're so close to the World Trade Center and all that. So I believe it should be held in Guantanamo Bay."
"We work for the courts and all the streets are going be very tied up," said a third.
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has backed away from plans to hold the trials at the site, but in an interview yesterday with Kate Couric, President Barack Obama said it is still a possibility.
“I have not ruled it out, but I think it’s important for us to take into account the practical, logistical issues involved,” said Obama. “I mean if you’ve got a city that is saying no and a police department that is saying no and a mayor that’s saying no, that makes it difficult.”
Speaking Monday, New York Senator Charles Schumer said the trials should be held in a self-contained area away from populated areas and definitely away from the city.
"My advice to the president, with great respect, take New York off your radar screen," Schumer said. "Find another location."
Some critics have called on Obama to completely abandon plans to try the five conspirators in civilian courts, instead moving the trials to military tribunals.
Still, there are some who say Lower Manhattan is the only appropriate place to hold the trials.
"9/11 happened here," said one New Yorker. "Those guys deserve to be here for the trials."
Vallone's office says the mayor's office, the NYPD, and the patrolmen's union been invited to speak at the upcoming hearing. As of late Monday, none have responded to the invitation.
That hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday but could be postponed due to the impending snow storm.