Still seeking consensus on 9/11 steel

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


Some three years after the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department secured one of the beams recovered from the World Trade Center site after 9/11, the corroded, twisted steel still sits in the borough DPW garage because officials haven’t agreed where to install it.

But now, according to Mayor Peter Massa, “We’re shooting for Memorial Day for a dedication.”

Where that will happen, though, was still undecided, as of last week, although reportedly, there was to be a meeting this week of NAFD and borough representatives to hash over that issue.

“We should have a determination at our next [March 13] council meeting,” Massa said.

While the firefighters’ preference is for Zadroga Park off Schuyler Ave., the mayor said last week that the front lawn of Borough Hall could be a more practical choice.

A third site that Massa said had been under consideration was near the firehouse on River Road but that was dubious at best because of the potential for flooding.

Logistics, security issues and cost weigh against placing the steel section – approximately 12 1/2-foot-long section of steel, estimated at 400 pounds in weight – at Zadroga Park, Massa said.

Massa said that Neglia Engineering, the borough’s consulting engineering firm, has calculated that installation of fencing and security-related infrastructure needed to protect the monument, if placed at Zadroga Park, would cost “in excess of the $17,000 public bid threshold.”

By contrast, he said, installing the steel in front of Borough Hall on Ridge Road would, according to Neglia, would amount to “about $3,500.”

Where the money would come from remains to be seen.

Councilman Richard Hughes, a member of the Fire Department, who, along with Robert Kairys and Mark Zidiak, among others, responded to a P.A. call for help with replenishing air packs at the 9/11 disaster site and aided in the search and recovery effort in shifts for several days, said that the department – like others around the country – put in a request for a piece of WTC steel to specifically honor first responders who volunteered at the disaster site.

As they waited to hear from the P.A., the volunteers – who anticipated getting maybe a three-foot section of steel – figured on placing it at their River Road headquarters, Hughes said.

But when they learned – after a year waiting – that the P.A. had reserved for them a 12-foot-plus section, they concluded that another location would serve better so a committee established by the department selected the Zadroga Soccer Field site, named for North Arlington native James L. Zadroga, a NYC police officer who spent more than 400 hours helping out at 9/11 and who died in 2006 after being exposed to air-borne toxins at the site. Congress passed the Zadroga Act to guarantee medical treatment through at least 2015 for first responders similarly exposed.

“We feel that the front lawn of Borough Hall would be too crowded as a location for the 9/11 beam,” Hughes said. “We have tree lighting events and memorial services there and we already have war memorials; with all due respect, 9/11 is kind of a different animal. That’s why we wanted to locate [the beam] at Zadroga Field, since it’s named for one of the first responders to die from the dust at 9/11, we have a continuously maintained 9/11 memorial along the fence and the site offers a perfect view of the WTC site and the new Freedom Tower.”

Hughes said the volunteers had been told by former Business Administrator Terence Wall that the borough might be able to “reallocate” some previously awarded grant money for the 9/11 beam installation but before that could happen, the project was shelved.

“There was a whole slew of different excuses,” Hughes said, “including safety issues, parking. Are there safety issues? Maybe. Can they be remedied? Probably. We’ve already talked to the soccer association who’d be willing to open the gate for parking below.”

Massa, who at the time of the attack, was a detective for the N.Y./N.J. Waterfront Commission, recalled being called to help “lock down” Newark Airport for the next three days when air traffic was grounded during the national emergency.

He’d actually called in sick that morning, after having woken up with a severe sore throat, and had he gone to work, Massa said his route would’ve taken him along Vesey St. by the WTC shortly before the first plane struck the tower.

Asked about the prospects of using grant money for the 9/11 beam installation, Massa said: “I’d have to check with our new CFO. The way these grant awards are written, you have to be cautious on interpreting the language of the grant because sometimes there are restrictions on moving the money around.”

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