NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that he wants the federal government to move the trial of five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks away from its intended site in lower Manhattan.
Bloomberg said it would cost as much as $1 billion to provide security for the trial, should it proceed over several years, and suggested the Justice Department consider an alternate venue such as a military base outside the city.
“It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn’t cost $1 billion, which is what using downtown will and will also impact traffic and commerce and people’s lifestyles downtown,’’ Bloomberg said during a news conference in Brooklyn. “If they were to move it elsewhere, I’d be very happy with that.’’
President Obama announced in November a plan to move Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 2001 attacks, and four fellow Guantanamo Bay detainees to New York to stand trial about a quarter-mile from where the World Trade Center towers stood.
The government intends to prosecute all five together and seek the death penalty in a trial that may involve some closed sessions dealing with classified information, Attorney General Eric Holder has said.
Bloomberg said he assured Holder the city could provide security in the event a trial were held in lower Manhattan.
“We said: ‘Yes, we can. We’d like you to pay for it,’ ’’ he said.
In a Jan. 5 letter to Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, the mayor placed the cost of holding a trial in Manhattan at $216 million for the first year and $206 million annually in subsequent years.
“The suggestion of a military base is probably a relatively good one, relatively easy to supply, to provide security,’’ Bloomberg said yesterday. Bloomberg said his cost estimate assumed the trials and their appeals would take several years.