By Josh Williams and Jon Schuppe
INWOOD — Keith Lebow stood outside the Church of the Good Shepherd in Inwood on Tuesday, looking at the steel cross that honors the people from his neighborhood who died on 9/11.
This is where he wants to be remembered, too.
“When I die from my illness, this is where my stone is going, right there,” Lebow, 46, said.
A former ironworker who spent 100 hours clearing debris and searching for victims at Ground Zero, Lebow can’t afford the medical care he needs to deal with the myriad of respiratory and skin illnesses he’s contracted.
He’s one of the 10,000 people who sued the city for compensation, but says his portion of a proposed $657.5 million settlement — starting at $3,250 each — would not be enough to keep him alive.
He needs the Zadroga bill.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named after a New York detective who died after inhaling toxic World Trade Center dust, would provide medical monitoring and treatment to WTC responders and community members for the rest of their lives.
The $11 billion bill was approved by a Congressional subcommittee on Tuesday, and is headed for a vote by the entire House of Representatives.
Lebow suffers from lymphoma, asthma, gastritis, cellulitis, sinusitis, post-traumatic stress disorder and several other ailments. He was hospitalized Sunday after he started spitting up blood. His left calf has turned black, and says that if he injures it further, it could develop gangrene. And he his caring for his 90-year-old mother.
“If the Zadroga bill doesn’t’ get passed, it’s pretty much a death sentence for me,” Lebow said. “Even if we win the lawsuit, I am not going to be able to afford my medications.”
John Feal, an injured construction worker and founder of the Fealgood Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps people hurt at Ground Zero, said there are more than 55,000 people suffering from the effects of 9/11. He is among those who did not join the lawsuit against the city.
The proposed payouts were a joke, he said.
“They might as well give out 9/11 instant scratch off lottery tickets,” he said. “The $3,250...doesn’t even cover some first responders’ medication costs,” Feal said.
The proposed settlement with the city still needs to be approved by the plaintiffs.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called the settlement “a fair and reasonable resolution to a complex set of circumstances.”
Bloomberg also applauded the House’s progress on the Zagroga bill. He said it “marks an important step in our effort to secure sustained medical monitoring and treatment for the first responders and survivors of the September 11 attacks.”