NEW YORK (AP) – After years of tension between two communities mourning the second-worst airline disaster in U.S. history, the city announced Friday that it will build a memorial nearly a mile from the crash site.

The decision disappointed some victims’ relatives who hoped to see a monument in the Queens neighborhood where American Airlines Flight 587 crashed three years ago to the day, killing all 260 people aboard.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the memorial site as hundreds of family members gathered in the rain, many clasping loved ones’ portraits alongside yellow and white roses.

“I’m here as a way of saying that I love her,” said Pedro Nunez, 35, who lost his wife, Yanelly Martinez, 24.

The crash devastated two close-knit communities – the Dominican-American enclave of Washington Heights in Manhattan and Belle Harbor, an oceanfront part of Queens just south of Kennedy Airport that is home to firefighters and other city workers.

Most of those aboard the flight were Dominicans traveling to visit their homeland or to see relatives there. Five victims were killed on the ground, dealing Belle Harbor a fresh blow just a month after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack.

Belle Harbor residents resisted the idea of a memorial in their neighborhood, saying it would disturb the peace and provide an unwelcome reminder of a devastating time.

Their resistance and the rebuilding of homes on the site has angered victims’ relatives, who say the spot where the plane fell is sacred ground.

Tricia Mills, whose sister Michele was a flight attendant on board, said she was upset by the lack of a permanent memorial in Belle Harbor.

“There absolutely needs to be one,” she said. “I thought it should have been at the site.”

Instead, the monument will rise on a grassy circle overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, in the middle of a bus turn-around at the end of a cul-de-sac 17 blocks from the crash site.

The choice was welcomed by some Dominican activists as the end of a painful episode that intensified many families’ pain.

“It is hard for them because they want a place that they can go whenever they want to and pray, go, sit down,” said Gisela Martinez, a worker with the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans. “They cannot go to where the plane crashed because there is a house there.”

Moises Perez, executive director of the community group Alianza Dominicana, said the site has “tremendous potential” and was chosen in good faith by the city.

“There’s obviously people who feel it’s disrespectful not to have it where it fell,” he said. “It’s a good compromise and I think the mayor has been earnest in trying to make it happen.”

The death toll in Flight 587 was the second-worst in U.S. aviation history, following the 1979 crash of an American Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport that killed 275 people.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled last month that turbulence prompted the co-pilot of Flight 587 to aggressively move the rudder back and forth to try to steady the Airbus A300 plane. The movement put excessive pressure on the tail, tore off its vertical fin and sent the plane plunging.


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