New 9/11 DNA push undertaken at Staten Island’s Fresh Kills

By Judy L. Randall Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Eleven and a half years on, the grim work begins anew.

Debris from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center was sifted for human remains Monday at the former Fresh Kills landfill.

The city medical examiner’s office is overseeing the work, which is expected to take 10 weeks.

Some 60 truckloads of WTC debris have been brought to Fresh Kills since 2010. A memo issued Friday by Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway said DNA testing will continue in an attempt to identify victims. Since 2006, new sifting technology has resulted in 34 additional identifications.

“Potential human remains” of 1,634 of the 2,753 victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks have been identified thus far, according to the Holloway memo. The memo noted the process will include the use of a mobile forensic sifting platform designed in 2006, which will permit approximately 590 cubic yards of material recovered from the WTC and surrounding area to be examined.

In addition to the medical examiner’s office, the NYPD, FDNY and the Departments of Sanitation, Design and Construction, and Information Technology and Telecommunications are involved.

The chairman of the 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims criticized the effort Monday, saying the operation should have federal oversight.

Jim Riches, a retired FDNY deputy chief whose firefighter son, Jimmy, was lost on 9/11, contended the “oversight is nonexistent” and pointed to allegations of mishandling of DNA in rape cases by the medical examiner’s office.

“No one is in charge,” Riches, a Brooklyn resident, told the Advance. “There is no quality assurance from the ME’s office. There is no transparency, no oversight.”

Riches said he’d like the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command office to oversee the recovery effort.

While Riches said he is “very glad there is resifting … because you have 1,100 families who have received nothing,” he added: “These are American heroes. They deserve to be identified, and their families deserve to be given the best possible search for their identities. They deserve closure.”

No Staten Island families are involved with his group, Riches said.

Meanwhile, Borough President James Molinaro said top experts in the fields of anthropology and archeology are involved in the effort, and a federal entity is not needed.

“They are going all-out,” said Molinaro.

“The operation is very important to the families of the victims,” Molinaro added. “It is no different than it was 11 years ago. People still need closure, and if they can find [additional remains], that will give them comfort.”

The geographic parameters of the material to be sifted include debris taken from frontage of the World Financial Center and West Street, also known as New York State Route 9A.

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