Published January 29, 2010
As Obama administration officials scurry to find an alternative site for the Sept. 11 terrorist trial, the mayor of an upstate New York city has opened his arms with a message: Bring it to Newburgh.
"When first asked whether or not I want this to happen in the city of Newburgh, I hesitated and then I said yes," Mayor Nicholas Valentine told Fox News on Friday.
But after New York City officials, citing security issues and cost, said this week the trial was no longer welcomed in town, why would any city want to host professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices?
For Valentine, the answer is simple.
"The city of Newburgh is a poor place," he said. "And we could really use the economic stimulus that a federal program like this would bring."
Newburgh, about 60 miles up the Hudson River from Manhattan, has a new $22 million state-of-the-art courthouse that can be secured easily and is less than a 90-minute commute from Manhattan, Valentine said.
Valentine thinks Newburgh would benefit from the international attention, as well as the hordes of lawyers and reporters attending the trial. The part-time mayor, who also owns a tailor shop across from the courthouse, said the trial also could attract tourists.
"I seized a moment in which I said to myself, if it's going to be in a municipality why don't I say yes to it so I don't look back maybe six months from now and say it ended up in Kansas or Jersey or here and they reaped the benefits of whatever this economic engine would be."
Newburgh already made terror-related headlines in May, when the FBI arrested four men in what authorities called a plot to detonate a bomb outside a Jewish temple and to shoot military planes with guided missiles at the nearby New York Air National Guard base.
The region's Stewart International Airport has been mentioned as a possible location for the terror trial, as has nearby West Point and a federal prison in Otisville, about 27 miles west of Newburgh.
A growing chorus of politicians have criticized the plan to hold the high-profile trial in one of the most populated areas of the nation. Six senators wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder this week saying "you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials fear that it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to provide security.
But Valentine is unfazed by those concerns.
"I think we can do it for a lot less in the city of Newburgh," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.