By Bill Parry
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) presented congressional citations to two Jackson Heights groups which played a role in helping a neighbor in need.
Solution Docs and the Ecuadorian International Center helped secure a humanitarian parole for a 9/11 clean-up worker and Jackson Heights resident Martha Friere.
“Martha Friere was there for our country during one of the most difficult times in our history, and I’m proud to see our Jackson Heights community come together for her now,” Crowley said.
A survivor of domestic abuse, Friere lived in the United States under U non-immigrant visa status, but when she left the country for Ecuador in 2013 to attend the funeral of one of her daughters, she was not allowed to re-enter the country.
That is when Friere contacted Solution Docs for help. The Jackson Height-based immigrant services provider agreed to help her file for humanitarian parole at no cost.
Her application was subsequently approved based on the numerous medical conditions she developed as a result of her exposure to hazardous materials during the clean-up effort at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On Sept. 14, 2001, Friere went to work for a subcontractor cleaning offices and banks in the building that surrounded Ground Zero. For the next six months she worked eight-hour shifts six days a week, cleaning the dust and ash that settled over every surface.
Friere was never provided gloves, protective suits or breathing apparatuses and she soon developed respiratory problems, starting with asthma. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010 and began receiving treatment at Bellevue Hospital Center.
With the help of Solution Docs and the immigration advocacy group Ecuadorian International Center, Friere was able to return to the United States, where she is caring for her 17-year-old daughter, who had been left on her own in Jackson Heights.
“Thanks to the collaborative effort between one of our local immigrant associations and a small business committed to giving back to our community, Martha was able to reunite with her family in Queens and continue receiving the healthcare she needs and deserves,” Crowley said.
Friere will restart he cancer treatments next week.
She was one of nearly 20,000 clean-up, recovery and rescue workers who worked in and around Ground Zero in the year following the terrorist attacks. The deadline for them to register their service with the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board is Sept. 11, 2014.
The registration is part of the board’s “Tell Us You Were There” campaign, urging those workers to file a WTC-12 form to preserve the right to future benefits, should they ever need them.
Workers at Ground Zero, Fresh Kills Landfill, the barges, the piers and the morgues, whether they were employed or volunteered, are eligible.
The form is available at wcb.ny.gov/WTC12 and anyone with questions can call 855-WTC-2014.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.