By Bill Parry
Two Corona residents, who worked on the pile at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks, recently visited state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) at his Junction Boulevard office to thank him for helping them secure long-awaited settlement checks.
The two men developed severe medical conditions after inhaling toxic dust and asbestos and qualified for benefits under the Zadroga Act, but got some bad advice from a union representative.
Wilson and Francisco, who don’t want their last names revealed in order to protect their identity, were licensed asbestos removal contractors. They suffered respiratory and digestive ailments and were sent to a law firm by a now-deceased official from Laborers Local 12 and 78. The firm settled their cases, but two years passed without either of them receiving their benefits.
“So they came to me and my staff began working the phones,” Peralta said.
In less than two months Wilson and Francisco received their checks.
“We hear this all the time. Attorneys say ‘we’ll take care of you,’ but they take their time with the settlement while holding on to their 15 to 17 percent,” Peralta said. “These men, who had the guts to work in that toxic dust for nearly a year, just needed some help filing the proper paperwork and dealing with the beauracracy. They would have been better off going to a nonprofit that are trained to handle the paperwork for these immigrant workers who need help. Organizations such as the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York and the Hispanic Federation, any one of them could have pointed these men to a nonprofit that could have handled it without taking a cut of the settlement, too.”
Last week, Peralta provided much-needed financial support to two of these non-profit organizations, the Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans and Woodside on the Move.
CIANA received a $50,000 state allocation in order to assist the Astoria nonprofit in continuing to provide legal representation and other services to immigrants. The organization works to prevent the increasing marginalization of refugees and new immigrants.
“Under the current political climate, helping immigrants has become my No. 1 priority. Immigrants built New York, and our doors will always remain open,” Peralta said. “As we lead the way on so many issues, nobody, not even President Trump, is going to change who we are, a society where hard-working immigrants are welcomed and our values are untouchable. My parents came to the United States seeking a better life for their families, and I wanted to make sure the same opportunities are available for all those who decide to come to our city and state, especially newcomers.
Peralta provided another $50,000 in State funding to Woodside on the Move so it could hire a lawyer to provide legal assistance to immigrants.
“Sadly, immigrants need more help than ever, and we must ensure we assist them as much as we can,” he said.
Visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance’s website for more information on asbestos and mesothelioma.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr