By Suzanne Ma
CHINATOWN — The Obama administration appears to have abandoned plans to hold the trials of Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four other alleged 9/11 terrorists in lower Manhattan, according to the Washington Post.
"It seems less and less likely" that the trials will take place in New York City, a source told the Post.
Hours before, residents and business owners from Chinatown and lower Manhattan were meeting with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to discuss security plans for the 9/11 terror trial.
Despite rumors that officials were discussing options to move the trial of out of New York City, the more than 20 residents and business owners at the meeting vowed to keep fighting the plan until Washington made a definitive decision.
"It's not over yet," Chinatown resident Jan Lee told DNAinfo, shortly after the meeting. "No one has given the count of 10 that it's completely dead."
Lee said downtown residents were mobilizing and that "protest is imminent."
Elected officials were hesitant to name alternative venues for the trials on Friday, saying it was up to federal officials and security experts to make a decision.
Kelly, speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, also declined to say exactly where the trials could be held.
"I am not certain where they will go," he said. "I have no recommendations as to where it should go."
But he admitted, for the first time, that moving the trials out of the city would be a good idea.
"I think it is a good decision for the city," he said. "It gives us some breathing room in the police department. It would have taken several hundred police officers a day in that area and other areas."
Kelly had made a half-hour presentation on Friday morning, giving explicit details about the security measures surrounding the courthouse.
"It was sobering," Lee told DNAinfo. "Surge teams, atlas teams, license plate readers, chemical detection units, where vehicle and pedestrian checkpoints would be."
Lee said he had no doubt the NYPD was capable of protecting the city during the trial, but "the cost to the community and the cost monetarily is so great that it just doesn't make sense to do it."
Opposition to the trials, set to take place in a Pearl Street courthouse, started with Chinatown residents who would have to endure years of heavy security including road closures, metal barricades and armed guards.
Community board officials soon joined in, sending a resolution to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder proposing alternative venues: Governors Island, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a federal courthouse in White Plains, Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh and a federal institution in Otisville.
Support from city politicians followed, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On his weekly radio show, Bloomberg said he spoke with several "high level" people in the administration about moving the trials.
"Hopefully, from the perspective of the country of increasing our security, they'll do the right thing," Bloomberg said on the show. "We'll see what happens."
Gov. David Paterson, Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said this week they are open to a move, and Republican Congressman Peter King introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of Justice Department funds to try Guantanamo detainees in federal civilian courts.