2002-12-28 / Front Page

Flight 587 Families To Ask For Memorial

By Howard Schwach

Flight 587 Families To Ask For Memorial

One of the three organizations that represent the families of those who died when Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001 will officially request in early January that the city purchase a plot of land on Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue for a memorial to those who were lost.

Moises Perez, executive director of Alianza Dominica, a Washington Heights advocacy group said that he recently met with a group of the families and they requested the official request.

"They speak of that area as ground zero," Perez told New York Times reporter Sarah Kershaw, "While a memorial here or there would be nice, there is a ritual attachment to the place where somebody's body actually separates from their soul."

"It's pretty unanimous," he added. "The families want something very special there."

There are indications, however, that any plan to place a memorial on the land where the plane actually came down would not meet with favor with those who live in the area, especially those whose homes were impacted by the crash.

Sandy Weiser's mother, Bette lives on the Corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue. Her home was heavily damaged by the crash and she has still not returned to live there.

"This memorial will be railroaded down our throats," Sandy Weiser told The Wave last month. "A small area such as this cannot be made into ground zero. It is time to move on."

"I don't want to see this as a cemetery site," says Gerrie Pompanio, whose husband died when parts of the plane destroyed her home. She is planning to rebuild her home and does not want a memorial across the street.

"It's not where death is, it's where life is," she says. "How can you go on with your life when you live in a cemetery?"

Liz Sulik, the executive director for the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, says that her organization has been meeting with family members, both from Rockaway and from other areas of the city.

"The Chamber's position has been as a facilitator and to bring people together," Sulik says. "We don't want this to become an adversarial issue. We want to unite everybody."

Sulik admits, however, that even the family groups are "politically divided."

"The bottom line," Sulik adds, "is that there is a right way to do things and that is what we are looking for."

Congressman Anthony Weiner is reportedly working on a compromise with representatives in Washington Heights that would satisfy both groups.

Weiner was not available for comment during the holiday season.




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