As calls increased Wednesday for the federal government to move the 9/11 terror trials out of lower Manhattan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did an about-face and said he would “very happy” to see them held elsewhere.
“It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn’t cost $1 billion, which using the downtown site will,” said Bloomberg. “My hope is that the Attorney General and the president decide to change their mind.”
The city has estimated it would cost about $200 million a year for security and Bloomberg was assuming the trial would last about five years, aides said.
When the decision was first announced to try accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in the federal courthouse downtown, Bloomberg expressed support.
On Wednesday, the Real Estate Board of New York also called for the trials to be moved, citing security concerns and the inconvenience to residents and businesses.
“The trial will wreak havoc on the surrounding community with the extensive security requirements and massive disruptions like permanent street closures,” said Steven Spinola, REBNY’s president.
The group also launched a Web site encouraging people to contact government officials to protest the plan.
It follows a vote this week by the local community board, which suggested moving the trials to sites such as Governor’s Island, the National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Rockland County and West Point.
Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said those sites seemed like good ideas, as did Riker’s Island.
“From a logistical perspective, it’s hard to find a place that’s worse than lower Manhattan,” he said. “It’s not even a good place to have ticker tape parades.”
One New Yorker, Simon Anu, 33, of Baychester, said the trials shouldn’t even be on American soil. “I think they should be tried in an international court: The Hague.”
Robert Levin contributed to this story