In the News: More prominent victims of 9/11 cancers

Robert Simko, the co-founder of the Battery Park City Broadsheet, died at age 68 in November from a cancer that has been linked to exposure to environmental toxins from September 11. He and his wife, Alison, founded the newspaper in 1997, when Battery Park City was just coming together as a community. Simko went to RISD for photography and moved first to Tribeca, but then to the new Gateway Plaza; he and Alison raised two children there. From the Broadsheet’s obit: “One of Robert’s special skills was identifying, understanding, and building the mosaic of a community. He loved Lower Manhattan: the esplanade and parks of Battery Park City, the winding streets of the Financial District, his favorite dumpling restaurant in Chinatown, and the cobblestones of Tribeca. He believed the best of the city was located downtown.”

The Broadsheet has an obit on Juanita Gore-Thomas, who moved to Southbridge Towers in 1971 and died on February 17 at 77 from colon cancer associated with exposure to toxic debris from 9/11. Her husband, Norman B. Thomas, died in 2021 from September 11-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and lung disease. The couple were both community and national activists and their daughter Mariama James serves on CB1 and is the Downtown’s first Black elected District Leader. James recalled that “the family moved to Lower Manhattan at time when the neighborhood was an office district with no more than a few hundred residential households.” From the Broadsheet: “Having taken up residence in Lower Manhattan, Ms. Gore-Thomas plunged headlong into the life of the fledgling community, dedicating her free time to Parent-Teacher Association meetings and volunteering at public radio station WBAI, then located at 120 Wall Street. In the early 1990s, she became a leading advocate for the designation of the newly discovered African Burial Ground (on Broadway, between Reade and Duane Streets) as a National Monument.”

Battery Park City community leader Kathy Gupta died in January in her home in Gateway Plaza at age 72 from illnesses linked to 9/11 toxins. She and her husband, Udayan, moved to Gateway in 1983, and were one of the first residents of Battery Park City. It didn’t take long for her to become a community activist, founding the Battery Park City Parents Association and pushing for the area’s first playground and a decade later, the area’s first school. PS 89 opened in 1997. She then went on to join CB1 and help create Manhattan Youth. From the Broadsheet: “Along the way, Ms. Gupta helped assemble the building blocks of a rapidly coalescing community in numberless other ways. ‘She was the kind of person who could take a big city and turn it into a small town,’ recalled her friend Lois Eida. ‘She was very strong with tradition and holidays—the whole floor would come to her apartment for Christmas, to decorate the tree and bake holiday cookies. I later found out that she had rented three storage units near Canal Street, which were filled with decorations for different holidays.'”


1 Comment

  1. May they all rest in peace. All beautiful people who had a huge impact on our community. Its very scary for us who stay are now have children in their 20s and 30s. Join the 911 Health Registry, go and get a check up. Be on top of your health. The EPA lied to all who worked and lived down here. Its very scary.