2005-04-29 / Front Page

Assembly Passes AA 587 Scholarship Bill

By Howard Schwach

The relatives of those who died when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001 may soon receive scholarships to state and city universities under an amendment to the state’s education act that was passed by the State Assembly last week.

The Assembly bill, co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, guarantees free tuition for the immediate families of the victims, including the families of the five local residents who died when the Airbus A300-600 lost its tail and crashed into the residential area. Two hundred and sixty were lost on the plane as well.

“[Relatives] who now shoulder the burden of supporting the families of those who died and children who have lost the support of their parents [should] have the opportunity to obtain a college degree and begin a self-supporting life,” the supporters of the bill said in a written statement.

Pheffer believes that the bill is important to the Rockaway families as well as to the Dominican families to whom the bill was originally targeted.

“This was an overwhelming tragedy for many local residents as well as other throughout the city,” a Pheffer spokesperson said. “We are happy to provide any help that we can to the families.”

She was not sure, however, how the bill, which would cost about $400,000 a year to taxpayers, would be received in the State Senate.

“We passed the bill unanimously in the Assembly,” Pheffer says. “Now it is up to the Senate to pass the same bill.”

State Senator Malcolm Smith told The Wave on Monday, however, that a bill approving the scholarships would be passed soon.

“The bill for the Flight 587 scholarships is not on for next week,” Smith said. “It is in good shape, however, for this legislative year, especially since the budget has been passed and we can focus on important bills such as this.”

“This law should bring some hope to the families of the victims, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, who represents Washington Heights, told reporters. “Some of them are still involved in litigation and have not received any compensation. This will bring them some relief.”

The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, would be retroactive to the 2001-2002 academic year.

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