Construction workers rallied Tuesday at Ground Zero to demand authorities speed up the rebuilding effort, saying restarting work at the stalled site would put many back on the job.
"There are a lot of guys in Long Island out of work," said Wantagh resident and iron worker Michael Basil, 41, a member of the iron workers union Local 580.
"There are piles of steel that are just sitting around here ready to go up. The longer we wait, the more it's going to cost to build."
The labor rally in front of Tower Seven was organized by the Building, Construction, Trades Council of Greater New York, and was attended by state and local politicians. It came just days before developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey face a Friday deadline to present a rebuilding schedule for the stalled Ground Zero site. Tuesday, many in the crowd carried signs that said "Don't forget 9/11" on one side and "Delays mean defeat" on the other.
Most of the workers at the rally wore T-shirts showing iron workers triumphantly standing with the Twin Towers and the Manhattan skyline in the background.
Another iron worker, Julio Napolitano, 38, of Mastic, said the reconstruction at the site should not have taken nine years. "This is a disgrace to the people who fell here," he said.
Bob Regan, 43, of Bohemia, a foreman who is now working on a project to build a school in Battery Park City, said many of his fellow workers don't have another job lined up after they finish work at the school this summer.
"We need jobs," said Regan, who suggested some of the government bailout money should be used on the project. "With all the bailouts with the banks and Wall Street . . . it's always us who have to pay."
Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority, Tuesday defended the work so far at Ground Zero, saying that there is progress in the rebuilding.
"It's not because of the Port Authority that there hasn't been building," he said. "The Port Authority is not willing to do a public bailout of Larry Silverstein."
Silverstein declined to comment through a spokesman, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has supported the developer, said the Port Authority was blocking Silverstein's efforts to resolve the conflict.
"The Port Authority's not bailing out Silverstein. We have to bail out America. That's an outrageous statement," he said.
With Anthony DeStefano and
The Associated Press