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Terror Trial Opponents Adjust to the Glare of National Spotlight

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Protesters, reporters gathered across from Moynihan Federal Courthouse yesterday.

Most grassroots neighborhood groups struggle to get the tiniest bit of attention from the Mainstream Media. But these days the Civic Center Residents Coalition (CCRC) doesn’t need to work all that hard to make headlines. They proved that once again yesterday, as TV crews and newspaper reporters descended on Columbus Park, across the street from the Daniel Moynihan Federal Courthouse, on the edge of Chinatown, for the CCRC’s midday news conference.

The group’s message: they’ll keep up the pressure until the Obama Administration officially announces the upcoming 9/11 terror trial will happen somewhere else. They were joined by Councilmember Margaret Chin, who said, “I am here to stand with the Civic Center Residents Coalition and the residents in this neighborhood – Chatham Green, Chatham Towers – and the small businesses.”  Chin, who’s district office is just around the corner on Park Row, added, “We are letting the President and Justice Department know, not here, not in New York City, not in Lower Manhattan.”

City Councilmember Margaret Chin

Last week, Chin joined in as a co-sponsor of a proposed Council resolution calling for the trial to be moved and, “in the alternative,” asking the federal government to fully pay the security costs. This coming Wednesday (1pm), the Public Safety Committee and the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee (which Chin chairs) will hold a joint hearing on the resolution. Community activists are certain to be there in force, lobbying against the portion of the resolution addressing funding and, in their view, unwisely conceding the trial could be held downtown.

While, in many ways, the campaign to expel the terror trials has been all about grassroots politics – the residents are all too aware they’ve become tangled up in a national ideological debate. Yesterday, a reporter asked them to respond to charges that fighting against the trials is unpatriotic and a glaring example of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) behavior. They were also asked why they were continuing to make so much noise when the decision appears to be a fete accompli. Civic Center Residents Coalition leader Jan Lee:

Also speaking at the news conference, Community Board 1 member Marc Ameruso, who introduced the resolution calling for a venue change.  Referring to the raging debate about holding the terror trials in civilian courts, Ameruso said “this progressive ideology is what is putting us in danger.”

Finally, a footnote from the Strange Bedfellows File: The other night Jan Lee said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, now a Fox News talk show host, promised to come to Chinatown (not a bastion of conservatism) for a meal with the activists behind the terror trial campaign. Recently, Lee and CB1 Chair (and TV personality) Julie Menin appeared on Huckabee’s show.

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  1. I wonder how much security cost, and how much people’s lives were disrupted, when Ramzi Yousef was tried at the federal courthouse for the 1993 WTC bombing. That was at 40 Centre Street, apparently — is the proposal to try KSM there, too?

    So where are we supposed to move the trial *to*? Are people assuming that the alternate venue is a military base?

  2. I believe there is no comparison to the Ramzi Yousef trial. The KSM trial is touted by Eric Holder as the “Trial of the Century” – and Ray Kelly has proposed a security that is MUCH more extreme than anyone can imagine – in terms of cost and community disruption.

    NYC is un-securable. As long as there are 1000s of fake parking permits used everyday in NYC, which each fake permit disguising a possible car bombs, I would say move the trials to a place where at least this glaring security breach is absent. That would be an island or a location where vehicles can be exclusively controlled, especially vehicle parking.

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