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Big city life slowly returns in New York



NEW YORK (CNN) -- Traffic is returning to normal, the economy is recovering, and voters are preparing for the first step of electing a new mayor in New York, 13 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Monday.

The city was making it possible for families of the 6,453 people still missing to file death certificates before the bodies are recovered. Teams of lawyers will work free of charge to file the necessary papers in court, Giuliani said.

"It involves being able to show that the person was at work, that the person was there during that period of time," Giuliani said.

The attorneys will draft an affidavit, and a court then will decide whether there is sufficient proof to declare the person dead.

Recovery presses ahead

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CNN's Jason Bellini tours a Staten Island landfill where wreckage from the World Trade Center is processed. (September 24)

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CNN's Maria Hinojosa has more on the future of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (September 24)

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Workers at the disaster site have recovered the bodies of 276 people, 206 of which have been identified, Giuliani said.

Though rescue efforts continue, "the chance of finding anyone [alive] would now involve a miracle," Giuliani said. It's the slimmest hope he's given so far of finding survivors.

An estimated 101,164 tons of debris have been removed from the disaster site so far. The debris is being taken to a Staten Island landfill, where workers are sifting it for evidence in a process that could last as long as a year.

Street traffic around the city is back to normal -- even heavy -- but subway traffic is light, the mayor said. He urged commuters to use public transportation to ease the gridlock.

The Holland Tunnel, a major connection between New York and New Jersey, remains closed as it has since the attacks, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday.

To serve commuters traveling to and from Lower Manhattan, high-speed ferries began running Monday from the Upper East Side, Liberty State Park, Hoboken, New Jersey, and Exchange Place on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

Giuliani also made a rosy prediction about the city's economy, saying he has "tremendous confidence" that it will recover from the downturn it took immediately after the attacks.

Mayoral primary set for Tuesday

Preparations are being made for Tuesday's primary, rescheduled from September 11.

Seven polling places nearest the World Trade Center were closed, and voters were told to cast their ballots at other locations -- in one case a tent at a street corner near the original location, said Naomi Bernstein, spokeswoman for the city's board of elections.

Voters who already cast their ballots September 11, before the attacks happened and the polls were closed, must recast their ballots Tuesday. Absentee ballots still will be counted, the board of elections said.

Giuliani refused to answer questions Monday about his political future. Asked whether he would attempt to stay in office after his term ends in December, he said he has not had time to ponder the options in the wake of the attacks.

Some have speculated Giuliani might try to run for a third consecutive term -- something barred by term limit laws -- or somehow attempt to extend his current term.

"I need time to think about it, and I haven't had the time," he said.

On Monday morning, maintenance employees of the George Washington Bridge unfurled a 60-foot- by-90-foot American flag a few hundred yards from the World Trade Center site.

Employees discovered the banner in a storage room, and after the attacks they decided to repair its tattered stars and missing grommets.

"We felt very isolated at the bridge," said the bridge's general manager, Steve Napolitano. "This project gave us a way to express our solidarity with our fallen colleagues."

The flag flew at the New Jersey side of the bridge for seven years before it was retired in 1988. It now hangs on the side of Stuyvesant High School, which is being used as an emergency command center for the search effort happening a few blocks away.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met with Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki at the emergency operations center Monday, offering his support and solidarity with the United States.

"We share the same indignation to terrorism," Koizumi said. "We Japanese fight terrorism together with the United States of America." Japan grappled with its own terror attack in 1995 when sarin gas was unleashed in a crowded Tokyo subway.

Koizumi plans to visit Bush in Washington on Tuesday. Japanese diplomats Friday announced a $10 million gift from Japan toward city and state recovery efforts.






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