Benefits to families of retired cops and firefighters who die from Ground Zero-related work illnesses, reconsidered.
In a move that's sparked outrage, Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to cut new death benefits to families of retired cops and firefighters who die from Ground Zero-related work illnesses, Gov. Pataki and union officials charged yesterday.
The governor said the law he approved in August is supposed to provide survivors of retirees who die from a World Trade Center-related sickness 100 percent of salary and benefits.
But Bloomberg and the city Law Department said yesterday they determined the families are entitled to only 50 percent, based on their reading of the law.
City officials said the bill was incorrectly worded and insisted the 100 percent death benefits applied only to active responders who died from WTC-related illnesses - not retirees.
The death benefit was spurred by retired Detective James Zadroga's death from lung disease after working for months at Ground Zero.
Zadroga's 4-year-old daughter, Tyler Ann, is currently eligible for a 75 percent disability benefit, the family said. They said the mayor's action would actually cut the daughter's benefit to 50 percent.
Bloomberg, defending the ruling of his Law Department, said, "This was a law that we opposed because we didn't think it was appropriate - but, worse, it was poorly drafted."
The mayor said the state Legislature and governor could pass an amendment to clear up the controversy, but until then, the 50 percent ruling stands.
Pataki's office said the governor was stunned that the mayor was trying to stiff 9/11 families.
"We strongly disagree," said Pataki spokeswoman Joann Rose. "Any technical problems in no way prevent the implementation of the bill as envisioned. The intent of the legislation was clear, the spirit of the law supports it and our first responders deserve no less than 100 percent salary protection in the event of the loss of one of our retired heroes covered under the WTC Death Benefit Law."
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association cried foul after the Law Department sent a memo to the police pension board ruling that the law entitles survivors of retirees to only half-salary.
Families of cops and firefighters who die of 9/11-related illnesses while still on the payroll will get 100 percent.
"There should be no difference in the benefits provided to the family of a police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty or who becomes ill and dies from toxic exposure during the rescue, recovery or cleanup from the attack on the World Trade Center," said PBA President Patrick Lynch.
Linda Zadroga, the mother of the dead detective, said she was shocked that the mayor was still fighting against providing benefits to survivors.
"I thought this was signed into law. This mayor is heartless and a pompous ass. He doesn't understand how people live. Maybe he should live on $500 a week for a few months and see what it's like," Zadroga said.
Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said, "The law will be revised to ensure that survivors get full benefits."
A meeting of the city's pension board, slated for today, was canceled because of the controversy.