UPPER WEST SIDE — More than a decade after 9/11, the daughter of single mom killed in the attacks is close to being adopted by her aunt.
A lawyer for the victim's sister, Claire Gorayeb, filed court papers on June 13 stating the tortuous adoption proceeding "is apparently now close to completion."
"Despite having to wait in excess of 10 years to formally be declared 'a family' in the legal sense by the [Manhattan Surrogate's Court], Ms. Gorayeb created a family out of tragedy, establishing a strong, safe, healthy home, and raising [her niece] to be a confident, intelligent, stable child," the lawyer, Paul Shneyer, said in the court papers.
Gorayeb has been the primary caregiver to her niece, now 14, since her sister, Catherine Gorayeb, died in the World Trade Center attacks. At the time of Catherine's death Claire, pregnant with her own daughter, gave up her life in Boston and a six-figure salary to move to New York City and raise her then 2-year-old niece.
Sine then the aunt has fought to adopt her niece, battling the girl's biological father for custody and enduring years of court-ordered financial scrutiny.
The girl was the result of a brief fling Catherine had with a banker, Edward Kranz. After the baby's birth, Kranz first denied paternity. In January 2000, he agreed to give up custody rights in exchange for Catherine dropping her demand for child support.
In 2004, Kranz reemerged in his daughter's life two weeks after she received nearly $2 million from the 9/11 victims compensation fund. He claimed that through an Internet search, he had learned Catherine died in 2001 and sent Claire a picture of himself to give to his daughter.
Shortly after he reached out, Claire formally applied for adoption, with Kranz challenging her for visits and custody.
Over the years, the adoption proceeding grew more complicated when Claire protested the court-imposed visitations.
After Kranz had several visits with his daughter, Claire concluded that the meet-ups were "detrimental," according to Shneyer's court filing.
A court-appointed forensic child psychiatrist who met with the girl and Kranz agreed with Claire's decision, the filing says.
"I'm going to tell the judge that you never have to see him again, unless you want to," the psychiatrist told the girl, according to court papers.
But, despite Claire's objections, a judge imposed the visits. When Claire refused to recognize the order in 2009, the judge appointed guardians for the niece, the filing says.
The judge authorized the guardians to scrutinize Claire's accounting of how she spent the 9/11 compensation money on her niece.
After three years of combing over financial records, Claire and the guardians reached an agreement on the accounting last week.
The two guardians have asked the court for a combined $128,000 for their work.
Shneyer, who did not return a call for comment, says the guardians are asking for too much, especially since their pay would come out of the girl's 9/11 compensation fund. He said the lawyers billed at excessive rates and treated the case like "some major corporate litigation."
"The fact that the [guardians] are requesting such high hourly fees demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to the context of this case and their ward's status as a September 11th victim and orphan," Shneyer said in his filing.