In the face of increasing public opposition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday he would be happy if the federal government moved the trial of five suspects in the September 2001 terror attacks from its intended site in lower Manhattan.
"It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn't cost a billion dollars, which using downtown [Manhattan] will," Bloomberg told reporters at a news conference in Brooklyn. "And it will also impact traffic and commerce and people's lifestyles downtown."
"It would be great if we didn't do it," added Bloomberg about the venue planned for the federal trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects in the Sept. 11 conspiracy case.
The city estimates security costs would hit $216 million - mostly in police overtime - in the first year of the still unscheduled trial, followed by further annual overtime costs of $200 million.
Fears about traffic chaos, possible terrorism and the impact on businesses in the area are generating calls to move the trial. Community Board One in Manhattan voted recently to recommend the case be tried on Governors Island, an idea police have rejected as unfeasable for security reasons.
Wednesday, the non-profit Alliance for Downtown, which represents the lower Manhattan financial district, said the trial doesn't belong in the area because it could make recovery from the 9/11 attack more difficult.
"Downtown already copes with a permanent police checkpoint on Broadway and security-based closures elsewhere. Residents, small-business people and commercial tenants face significant hardships as the temporary fallout from growth and renewal make some streetscapes less wecloming than others," the alliance said in a prepared statement.In a related development, the Real Estate Board of New York, a major realty trade association, also called for the trial to be moved.