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Should the KSM Trial Move Be Moved? To Governors Island?

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  • Should the KSM Trial Move Be Moved? To Governors Island?

    Governors Island — the little teardrop of land dropped between Manhattan to the north and Staten Island to the south — is a strange place. Since it was sold from the federal government to the city of New York back in 2003, no one’s really known what to do with it. It’s now the city’s blank canvas — taking on whatever determined city residents think it should. There are art shows, polo matches, miniature golf tournaments. There’s been talk of gondolas and restoration projects and a sprawling park. The island’s odd little history is well-drawn in this New Yorker piece from last August by Nick Paumgarten.

    On Tuesday comes news, however, that at least one prominent NYC voice is pushing the city to hold the upcoming trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed on Governors Island. Click here for the story, from the NYT’s Clyde Haberman.

    According to Haberman, Julie Menin, the chairwoman of Community Board 1, whose primary concern is Lower Manhattan but whose jurisdiction includes Governors Island, is unhappy with the DOJ’s current plan: to host the trials in the federal courthouse at Foley Square. Writes Haberman:
    Security arrangements will be fierce. So will the cost, estimated at $200 million a year. Lower Manhattan will be turned into an armed camp. Normal life will be an oxymoron, possibly for several years, for people in a part of town still feeling the effects of 9/11. Many there will live in fear of new attacks.

    In Menin’s mind, Governors Island makes more sense. A resolution urging the Justice Department to consider that possibility was passed unanimously last week by the community board’s executive committee and is expected to be approved by the full board on Tuesday.

    “Governors Island, with its 200-year military history, presents an interesting compromise between those Republicans who want to have this in a military tribunal and those Democrats who want to see it in a federal courthouse,” Menin said.

    Will it happen. So far, the betting money’s against it. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly sounded interested at first, but then backed away, citing practical concerns raised by federal officials. City Hall has not embraced it, either.

    O.K., Ms. Menin said, if not Governors Island, how about other potentially secure sites that lie within range? Among possibilities that she mentioned were Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, and the United States Military Academy at West Point.

    Her real goal, she said, is to encourage “out-of-the-box thinking” about what to do with those we intend to put in the box. “Why don’t we open the door to looking at a whole range of sites?” she said.

    Where, she added, is it written that a trial must take place in a traditional courtroom setting? “What creates a federal courthouse is where the sitting judge presides,” she said.

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