Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday gave workers and volunteers who toiled amid the hazards of Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks two more years to secure lost wages and medical benefits resulting from illnesses for their work in the rescue, recovery and cleanup of lower Manhattan.
Those workers and volunteers will now have until Sept. 11, 2018, to secure additional workers’ compensation, disability and accident death benefits. The State Legislature passed the bill in June and Cuomo signed it Sunday, surrounded by New York police and fire officials.
Cuomo said the law is needed because hundreds of workers who became sick from the toxic air and material at Ground Zero didn’t detect their illnesses in time to meet the original deadline — Sept. 11, 2014.
“It was the worst of all worlds,” Cuomo said at the Manhattan ceremony honoring first responders, volunteers and workers. “You’re sick because of 9/11 . . . and government isn’t there to help you.”
At Cuomo’s right hand during the bill signing was FDNY firefighter Sal Turturici, 51, of Staten Island, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer Oct. 4.
“This is going to help a lot of people in harm’s way right now,” said Turturici, in a wheelchair, choking back tears.
His wife, Wendi Turturici, also an FDNY firefighter, called the law a “gift of life and hope” to her family. The benefits give “the hope that I can take care of my children when I don’t have Sal,” she said.
The benefits are part of the state’s World Trade Center Health Program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, established by the Zadroga Act. It will be funded by the federal government for 75 years.
Services are provided in New York City, on Long Island and in New Jersey. Other providers are located nationwide.
“Approval of this legislation signals our continued commitment to the men and women who selflessly and courageously put the needs of others ahead of themselves in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” said State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).
Cuomo rode to the ceremony as part of a motorcade of 450 motorcyclists from Suffolk, Ulster and Albany counties as “a sign of respect” for 9/11 first responders.
Among the state and city officials was actor and native Long Islander Kevin James, a friend of Cuomo’s who portrays a retired New York City police officer in a new TV series that films on the Island.