The city honored the late NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez along with his fellow advocates that fought for permanent funding of the 9/11 Victims Compensation fund including the lead sponsor behind the legislation, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
Alvarez, who grew up in Astoria, became national news as he testified in Congress, a day before his 69th round of chemotherapy was scheduled, urging members to pass the legislation on behalf of his fellow 9/11 first responders.
Alvarez died weeks later from complications from 9/11-related cancer that he traced back to his three months working at Ground Zero. He was laid to rest in June at Immaculate Conception Church in a mass that was attended by many of those honored Monday with the Bronze Medallion, the city’s highest civic award.
“Nearly two decades after 9/11, the fight continues to protect our first responders, who selflessly sprang into action when our city needed them most,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “Today’s honorees are true American heroes, who never gave up their fight to ensure the Victim Compensation Fund continues to take care of our first responders. They embody the duty, service, and friendship if New York City. I congratulate them on their well deserved honor, especially Astoria native, the late Luis Alvarez, who spent his final days advocating for his brothers and sisters.”
Among the other honorees were James Zadroga, a city cop who became the first to die of 9/11-related cancer, and FDNY firefighter Ray Pfeifer, who spent eight months working on the pile before he became a staunch advocate for the VCF. He died of 9/11-related cancer in 2017 at the age of 59.
Maloney received her Bronze Medallion while wearing the same FDNY turnout coat she wore during public events in the months leading up the reauthorization.
“The permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is a testament to everyone who walked the halls of Congress, who refused to take no for an answer,” Maloney said. “It honors everybody who showed up to save lives and rebuild our nation. While for some, 9/11 is a distant memory, our first responders, survivors, and their families will be living with the effects of that day for the rest of their lives. While we will never be able to relieve them of that burden, we made sure that the support promised to them will be available when they need it.”
To date, the VCF has paid out more than 22,000 claims to victims and responders killed or injured due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. There are more than 95,000 responders and survivors who access medical monitoring and or health care for their 9/11-related health issues such as respiratory conditions and cancer from inhaling the toxic air at Ground Zero.
“The passage of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund Act would not have been possible without the passion and determination of the many esteemed first responders and advocates being honored today,” City Councilman Donovan Richards said. “I’d like to thank them for their advocacy, honor and sacrifice for their family, friends and every survivor from 9/11. I’d also like to thank Mayor de Blasio for honoring their service with the Bronze Medallion and all of our representatives in Congress for securing this critical funding for true American heroes.”
It was the second time the Mayor honored Alvarez. In September he presented his family with the key to the city.
“In the aftermath of 9/11, New Yorkers put their lives on the line for the safety of our city,” de Blasio said. “I am proud to honor those who fought for our first responders with the Bronze Medallion. Their advocacy in securing the permanence of the Victim Compensation Act will be felt by New Yorkers for years to come.”