Mayor Switches 587 Memorial Service…
By Howard Schwach
Bowing to pressure from groups vying to represent the relatives of the victims of American Airlines Flight 587, the Mayor’s office has moved the November 12 ceremony in memory of those victims to the crash site rather than the original Riis Park venue.
Earlier in the week, Mayor Bloomberg’s office had announced a 9:17 a.m. ceremony for the national park venue, followed by a quick visit to Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue, the site of the November 12, 2001 crash.
After the announcement, however, leaders of three of the victim’s groups centered in Washington Heights, said that they would bypass the Riis Park ceremony and go directly to the crash site.
The Mayor has now agreed to a compromise that would start the Riis Park ceremony at 8 a.m. and that would bring all of the victim’s families together at the crash site by 9:17, the time that the plane crashed into the streets of Belle Harbor, killing all of the 260 people aboard as well as five on the ground.
"We’ve reached this agreement and we hope that they will be able to mourn and to pay their respects in a way they would like," Lark-Marie Anton, a spokesperson for the Mayor, told reporters.
The city will provide buses to bring the relatives to both the Riis Park site and then to the crash site.
The agreement has not made everybody happy.
"Doing it this way is like asking the relatives of those who died at the World Trade Center to meet in Central Park before they are taken to Ground Zero," one relative said. "The entire ceremony should be done at the crash site. That is hallowed ground."
Some Rockaway residents oppose the Beach 131 Street ceremony as well, but for different reasons.
"This memorial was railroaded down our throats," says Sandy Weiser, whose mother Bette, lived right on the corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue. Her home was structurally damaged in the crash and has yet to be completely repaired. "A small area such as this cannot be made into ground zero. It is time to move on."
"My 82-year-old mother is homeless," he adds. "And the city does nothing but put obstacles in her way."
At least 1,000 people are expected to attend the ceremonies.