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Context of 'January 2003: Over 1,000 New York Firefighters Have Filed Lawsuits against City'

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The New York City Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in New York City. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002]

Entity Tags: NBC, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

New York City officials order the Police and Fire Departments to reduce the number of officers and firefighters involved in recovery efforts at any one time to 24 for each department, citing new concerns about air quality at the site. The announcement is met with criticism from members of the police and firefighters unions. “We were promised by the mayor and the fire commissioner that we wouldn’t give this up until we got everybody out,” Michael Carter, the vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, tells the New York Times. “To scale back to 24 people, that’s to say that this has become nothing more than a construction site.” Thomas Manley, the health and safety officer for the firefighters union, tells the Times that he does not believe the decision was really based on new concerns regarding air quality. He suggests the mayor wants to minimize the presence of the site in an effort to return business to the area. [New York Times, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Thomas Manley

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

American Medical News reports that doctors in New York City are still treating large numbers of patients for respiratory conditions stemming from the World Trade Center disaster. About one-third of all New York City firefighters have symptoms of what is now termed the “WTC cough,” typified by persistent dry unproductive coughs, wheezing, sinus irritation and shortness of breath. One-fifth of responding firefighters also complain of GERD (gastroentero reflux disease) which doctors believe may have been caused by ingesting the pulverized concrete and glass that was present in the World Trade Center dust. “What you inhale, you also swallow,” explains David J. Prezant, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the New York City Fire Department. “Your entire tongue was coated with this stuff.” Doctors believe these health problems were caused in part by the shortcomings of protective breathing masks, which are not supposed to be worn for days on end. [American Medical News, 11/26/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: David J. Prezant

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Attorney Michael Barasch tells the Associated Press that he has filed legal notices on behalf of 700 firefighters and 300 police officers, fire marshals and emergency medical technicians, who have developed respiratory conditions after working at the World Trade Center disaster site. The legal notices are meant to preserve the plaintiffs’ right to sue the City of New York at a later date on the premise that the city failed to follow federal regulations and provide the appropriate respirators to the rescue workers at the disaster site. [Associated Press, 1/13/2002; Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Michael Barasch

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City government decides that the audio and written records of the Fire Department’s actions on 9/11 should never be released to the general public. The New York Times has been trying to get copies of the materials, which include firsthand accounts given to Fire Department officials by scores of firefighters and chiefs. The city claims the firefighters were told their accounts would be kept confidential, but senior fire officials say they were never told that their remarks would be kept confidential. [New York Times, 7/23/2002] The records will be released in 2005 after a legal battle (see August 12, 2005).

Entity Tags: New York Times, New York City Fire Department, City of New York

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

By this time, 358 New York City firefighters and paramedics are on sick leave or light-duty because they have the “World Trade Center cough” (see November 26, 2001). [Newsday, 9/10/2002]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

At a New York Academy of Medicine briefing, doctors discuss how the environmental conditions at Ground Zero during the recovery effort have so far impacted the health of those who worked at the site. Dr. Steven Levin of the Occupational Medical Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center explains that several of the more than 1,000 workers he has seen “have developed inflammatory responses” in their lungs and adds that he has seen only a few recover. Dr. Kerry Kelly, chief medical officer for the NYC Fire Department, says that while only 3 percent of New York City firefighters had respiratory problems prior to September 11, this number has since increased to 15.6 percent. Another speaker at the briefing, Lung Chi Chen of the NYU Department of Environmental Medicine, suggests that either the pulverized glass, the high pH level (see September 20, 2001), or a combination of the two, probably causes the World Trade Center cough. “We can show that human cells can tolerate acidic exposure very well,” Chen says in an interview. “But the cell cannot tolerate alkali exposure. You shift the pH up and the impact is devastating.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Kerry Kelly, Lung Chi Chen, Stephen Levin MD

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

To date, over 1,000 New York City firefighters have filed lawsuits against the City of New York claiming that the city failed to provide them with respirators during rescue and recovery efforts at the WTC. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

By this date, over 1,700 police officers and firefighters have filed lawsuits against the City of New York claiming that conditions at Ground Zero or the Fresh Kills landfill caused their illnesses, including sarcoidosis, asthma, reactive airway disorders, and chronic coughs. [New York Daily News, 6/24/2004]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The City of New York releases a large volume of records from 9/11. These include over 12,000 pages of oral histories—testimonies from 503 firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians involved in the 9/11 emergency response—and about 15 hours of radio communications between dispatchers and firefighters. The oral histories were gathered in informal interviews by the New York City Fire Department, beginning in October 2001. This was on the order of then Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, who said he wanted to preserve the accounts before individual memories faded. However, these histories were never subsequently used for any official purpose. [New York Times, 8/12/2005; BBC, 8/13/2005; Guardian, 8/13/2005; Newsday, 8/13/2005] The New York Times, under the freedom of information law, originally sought the records in February 2002. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration refused the request, claiming their release would jeopardize the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, and violate firefighters’ privacy (see July 23, 2002). The newspaper, joined by some 9/11 victims’ relatives, consequently sued the city, and in March 2005 the state’s highest court ruled that the city had to release the oral histories and recordings, but could edit out potentially painful and embarrassing portions. The city had also initially refused investigators from the 9/11 Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) access to the records, but relented following threats of legal action. [Associated Press, 8/12/2005; New York Times, 8/12/2005; Guardian, 8/13/2005] Analyzing the oral histories, the New York Times strongly criticizes the lack of information that firefighters received on 9/11: “[F]irefighters in the [north WTC tower] said they were ‘clueless’ and knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about the reality of the gathering crisis.” It continues: “Of 58 firefighters who escaped the [North Tower] and gave oral histories, only four said they knew the South Tower had already fallen. Just three said they had heard radio warnings that the North Tower was also in danger of collapse. And some who had heard orders to evacuate debated whether they were meant for civilians or firefighters.” [New York Times, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: City of New York, New York City Fire Department, Thomas Von Essen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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