Luis Alvarez, the ex-cop who spent his dying days helping get federal health benefits extended for first responders also sickened at Ground Zero, was posthumously awarded on Wednesday New York State's public service medal.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave the award to Alvarez’s widow, Alaine, and two of his three sons, David and Tyler, at a memorial luncheon to mark the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. In the years after 2001, insidious particles unleashed into the Ground Zero air would sicken more than 10,000 others, including Alvarez, who retired from the NYPD in 2010.
In June, Alvarez gave gripping testimony at a televised House Judiciary subcommittee hearing about the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund amid congressional resistance to extend it.
“What did Detective Alvarez do? He went down to Washington, literally in his last days, and he looked the Congress of the United States in the eye and he spoke the truth from his heart,” Cuomo said. “And what he said was simple but powerful: He said put your damn politics aside."
Alvarez’s testimony came just before he died at 53 of colorectal and liver cancer tied to his work at Ground Zero. Alvarez, of Oceanside, had delivered his testimony beside comedian/activist Jon Stewart, then, within days, went into hospice care in Rockville Centre.
Congress passed the legislation, which continues until about 2090, and President Donald Trump signed it. Some Republicans had opposed such funding because of concerns over how to pay for it.
At Wednesday's ceremony, the family stood with Cuomo as he signed into law five bills relating to first-responder benefits.
The bills Cuomo signed help reimburse localities for workers granted sick leave over their 9/11 work; increase the number of clinicians authorized to evaluate workers in the New York City Employee Retirement System applying for disability pensions; extend by five years the deadline for an accidental death benefit claim; expand World Trade Center disability benefits for certain retirees; and grant FDNY retirees diagnosed with certain cancers a presumption that their illness was incurred in the performance of duty.
After the luncheon, with hundreds of motorcyclists at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, Alvarez's widow rode with Cuomo on his motorcycle downtown for an annual Sept. 11 memorial ride he leads.