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Boro leaders laud House passage of 9/11 bill

Queens legislators and emergency workers praised the passage of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide free medical care to workers who were sickened or injured while working at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks and urged the U.S. Senate to quickly pass the legislation.

“The victims of 9/11 are not just those who died that day, but those who are dealing every day with sickness because of their act of heroism,” Weiner said at a press conference Monday outside FDNY Engine 294 in Richmond Hill.

Weiner was joined Monday by members of the city Uniformed Firefighters Association, Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, Uniformed Fire Officers Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association to throw their weight behind the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which was passed with bipartisan support, 268 to 160, in the House last week. ´╗┐The legislation is now before the U.S. Senate.

“There are seriously ill men and women who answered the call without question that have waited nine long years just to reach this point in the process,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch. “Tragically, we are only starting to see the effects, including rare and unusual cancers, caused by the toxic exposure from the attack. It is imperative that the Senate pass this important bill as soon as possible so that these heroic people can get the help they need.”

The bill, named after James Zadroga, an NYPD detective and first responder who died from respiratory illness caused by exposure to toxic dust after the Sept. 11 attacks, will allow thousands of people access to health care, legislators said. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who co-sponsored the bill, has said that more than 13,000 World Trade Center responders are sick and receiving treatment. About 71,000 individuals have indicated they were exposed to the toxins by enrolling in the WTC Health Registry, she said.

Maloney and Weiner have praised Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for supporting the bill.

“This is a crucial step forward for the legislation,” Maloney said in a statement issued Last week. “I look forward to working with Sen. Gillibrand, Sen. Schumer and all our colleagues in the New York delegation as we strive to pass the Zadroga Act by the ninth anniversary of the attacks. The heroes, heroines and survivors of 9/11 need and deserve comprehensive, guaranteed health care and access to compensation. It is truly the least our great nation can do.”

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), who also co-sponsored the legislation, said he was thrilled to see the bill pass.

“For too long, this Congress has not acted to help these victims on a permanent basis,” Ackerman said. “Tragically, some of the very people that we want to help with this legislation have already died.”

Gillibrand vowed to fight for the bill in the Senate.

“We have an undeniable moral obligation to help the heroes of Sept. 11 and all others exposed,” Gillibrand said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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