Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the proposal to move the high-profile trial of five terror suspects to Governor's Island, half a mile away from the tip of Manhattan, is "one of the dumber ideas" he's heard.
Bloomberg has fully supported the Obama administration's decision to try accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other accused terrorists down the block from Ground Zero. In November, he called it a "fitting" location and expressed confidence that the police force would be able to handle the security issues.
But talk about moving the terror trial out of such a high-trafficked, populated area and to Governor's Island began germinating in late December. Despite Bloomberg's dismissal of the idea Thursday morning, the concept of moving it elsewhere continues to gain traction.
On the same day the mayor made his statement against moving the trial to Governor's Island, Kelly said he's "certainly open to that suggestion." But an initial review Kelly ordered of the viability of trying the five terror suspects there found the island an unsuitable location.
"An NYPD initial review has found Governor’s Island an impractical alternative as a site for the trial of the 9/11 defendants, principally because of risks related to transporting the prisoners to and from the island, as well as the general lack of modern infrastructure there," Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement.
The NYPD's findings no doubt quiet, at least in part, the political outcry over Bloomberg's flat-out rejection of the proposal.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver lambasted the mayor's comments as close-minded and tactless. He, along with Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Margaret Chin released a joint statement Friday in condemnation.
“We were extremely disappointed by Mayor Bloomberg’s callous dismissal yesterday of a potential alternative location for the upcoming trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," the statement read. "His comments in the Downtown Express ... [demonstrate] a lack of sensitivity and understanding for the significant toll the trial may exact on the residents and small businesses of Lower Manhattan."
Bloomberg's denunciation of the proposal comes as residents of Lower Manhattan gear up for a fight to have the terror trial moved out of their backyard. Kelly has said the trial would raise the threat level of the city, and residents fear the 9/11 trial could make their neighborhood a target for terrorists.
"If President Obama thinks it’s such a good idea, then he should have the terror trial near his family, not mine,” said Howard Levy, who lives Downtown. "We’ve already had enough on 9/11.”
Business owners argue the trial will hamper the local economy. Heightened security could lead to blocked roads and that could hurt traffic flow and business.
It would certainly cost less to hold the trial outside Manhattan. Earlier this week, Kelly outlined a complex, double-layer security plan to manage the Downtown trial that could cost the city $200 million a year for as long as the men are detained here.