The mountains of garbage at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island were, in the late 1990s, forecast to one day become New York’s tallest landmark, surpassing even the World Trade Center towers. Little did anyone know that the last loads of debris buried at the site would be toxic rubble from those very same towers.
Today, the Fresh Kills landfill has been renamed Freshkills Park, part of a decades-long urban ecological restoration and rebranding project of a scale the city has never seen — the parcel of land is as big as Lower Manhattan south of 23rd Street. The first portion of the revamped Freshkills, called North Park, is scheduled to open to visitors in 2021. The rest of the site will open in phases through 2036.
Some who live closest to Freshkills, however, are worried that the outward beauty of the park masks something dangerous just below the surface. Thousands of tons of toxic debris from Ground Zero, the first load of which was dumped at Fresh Kills less than 24 hours after the towers fell, could be causing elevated rates of cancer among the residents nearby.
Several studies conducted at the site since 9/11 have indeed found elevated occurrences of cancers among Staten Island residents.
In the last decade, contractors who worked at Fresh Kills and some who operated debris barges were successful in obtaining personal injury settlements for health problems traced to their exposure at the site. A group of 2,000 plaintiffs received a $24 million settlement and insurers paid another $28 million to 1,300 additional plaintiffs. The city challenged these claims, arguing that lifestyle, genetics or other factors caused the cancer.
Those who worked post-9/11 on the barges and at Fresh Kills are covered by the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), making them eligible for compensation from the government.
The Barasch & McGarry team is actively involved in the situation at Freshkills. If you are a resident of the area who has cancer that you think may be linked to the site, please reach out to us. Our entire firm is dedicated to helping people who are affected by 9/11-related illnesses. Our New York attorneys can be reached at 888-351-9421 or you can contact us online anytime. Your initial consultation is free.