By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Jan 31 (Reuters) - A group of Sept. 11 victims'
families cannot obtain the names and addresses of the relatives
of New Yorkers who died in the attack, a state appeals court
The group, which opposes a proposal to inter unidentified
remains in a planned repository 70 feet underground at the
former World Trade Center site, was seeking from New York City a
list of next of kin and representatives for the 2,753 victims.
The repository would not be open to the public but would
need to be accessed through the National September 11 Memorial &
Museum. The families have objected, saying they do not want the
remains to be part of what they consider a commercial tourist
The group, which consists of the relatives of 10 victims,
would prefer that the remains be honored in a ground-level
The families were seeking the names and addresses of all the
victims' next of kin so that they could send letters to make
sure everyone was fully aware of the plan.
In 2011, they filed an Article 78 petition after Mayor
Michael Bloomberg's office and the city Office of the Chief
Medical Examiner refused their request for the information.
After the lawsuit was filed, the city sent a letter to all
of the Sept. 11 families about the proposal, but the group has
argued that the letter did not include enough detail.
On Thursday, the Appellate Division, First Department, held
that privacy concerns outweighed the public interest in
releasing the names and addresses to the group of relatives.
"We reject petitioners' assertion that there is a stronger
public interest in sending a letter to the families providing
greater specificity about the planned location of unidentified
remains of those who died in the attacks," the court wrote in an
The ruling affirmed a 2011 decision from Manhattan Supreme
Court Justice Cynthia Kern.
"It's not about honor, it's not about respect, it's not
about memorialization," said Sally Regenhard, the lead
plaintiff, whose son, Christian, was a firefighter who died in
the collapse of the World Trade Center. "It's all about money."
A spokesman for the museum declined to comment.
"We are extremely disappointed with the decision, because we
believe we had strong arguments for reversal," said Norman
Siegel, the lawyer for the group of families, which has not yet
determined their next step.
In a statement, city lawyer Ellen Ravitch said the decision
"recognizes the importance of protecting citizens' privacy
The case is Matter of Regenhard vs. City of New York,
Appellate Division, First Department, No. 9117.
For the families: Norman Siegel of Siegel Teitelbaum &
For the city: Thaddeus Hackworth of the New York City Law
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