9/11 Workers Face Deadline to Accept Settlement

Newsday - November 08, 2010

by MATTHEW CHAYES

As Monday's deadline looms for Ground Zero workers to accept a proposed settlement of their claims that they were sickened by pulverized debris in the 9/11 attacks, several litigants from Long Island said sunday that they planned to accept the deal they called imperfect but as fair as they probably could get. For the agreement to be effective, at least 95 percent of the 10,000 or so litigants - including firefighters, police officers and laborers - must approve it.

As of Friday, one plaintiffs' lawyer Paul Napoli told The Associated Press, 90 percent had voted yes for the settlement, which could ultimately mean a payout of as much as $815 million from the city and companies involved in the recovery and cleanup effort.

Kenny Specht, 41, a retired FDNY firefighter from Levittown who developed thyroid cancer at 37 and became a leader among first responders who were suing, said the settlement "should have been a lot more. However, it wasn't going to get any better."

"The Sept. 11 sympathetic ear is becoming harder and harder to find," said Specht, who considers the latest proposal "the last chance, the last shot, for people who are seriously ill to recover damages."

Retired NYPD detective Joseph Greco, 42, who relies on powerful medications and uses a breathing machine multiple times a day for ailments such as steroid-dependent asthma, said the settlement is right for him and his family, and preferable to battling the City of New York for years in court.

"I already opted in," said Greco, of Hicksville, who worked at both Ground Zero and the Staten Island landfill where debris was brought. "It's still not enough money for what I'm going through and what my family is going through - but something is better than nothing."

John Feal, 43, of Nesconset, who founded the Fealgood Foundation, an advocacy group for 9/11 responders, said the litigants "need this settlement.

"They need to be compensated," said Feal, a demolition foreman who worked at Ground Zero and lost half his left foot when 8,000 pounds of steel crushed it on Sept. 17, 2001.

Feal is not part of the suit. He settled separately with the city.

Glen Klein, 52, of Centereach, who retired as an NYPD emergency service unit detective after 20 years on the job, blames his severe gastrointestinal illness on 800 or so hours he spent doing 9/11 recovery at Ground Zero, said he thinks "a lot of people are going to opt in at the last minute."

"A little bit of money is better than no money at all," he said.

The settlement is a bittersweet moment for Klein, who lamented how he must carry a pill case in his pocket. "I'd give back all the money," he said, to reclaim the health "I had on Sept. 10, 2001."