April 20, 2007 -- Tom Cruise rolled into Manhattan under extraordinary security last night for a Hollywood-style fund-raiser to benefit his controversial project to help 9/11 responders.
The diminutive Scientologist, accompanied by his wife, Katie Holmes, pressed the flesh with supporters inside a $6,250-a-ticket benefit in Chelsea.
Reporters were barred from the West 18th Street fund-raiser, which resembled a Hollywood premiere, with scores of security men and paparazzi.
"He said how grateful he was to everyone for supporting the project," said Pat Bahnken, a party guest and president of the city's paramedics and EMT union. "He took time out to speak to every person. It took him an hour to get through the hallway. He was talking to everyone. It was genuine, nothing phony about it."
Cruise vigorously defended the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, despite criticism that it offers nothing more than medical hocus-pocus.
The program, based on principles developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, has provided more than 780 emergency workers suffering 9/11-related health problems with free treatment, which includes heavy doses of vitamins and hours in a sauna.
In a statement released before last night's event, Cruise blasted the plight of ailing Ground Zero workers as an "injustice."
"Nearly six years later, many are still paying a price for their heroic service at the World Trade Center," the actor said in his first comments since the controversy over the fund-raiser erupted two weeks ago, when The Post broke the news of his planned appearance.
Neither the NYPD nor FDNY supports the program, which has received hundreds of thousands of city dollars.
"This project has demonstrated that recovery is not only possible, but an incontrovertible fact," Cruise said.
Also attending last night's event was actor Michael Peña, who starred in Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" as a Port Authority cop who survived the World Trade Center collapse.
"Even doing a replica of it, I got a little sick or whatnot with all the dust," he said.
On Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg denounced official proclamations honoring Cruise and Hubbard that were drafted by City Councilman Hiram Monserrate. Bloomberg said Scientology is "not science, and we should only fund those programs that reputable scientists believe will stand the light of day."
Councilman Joseph Addabbo, who attended last night's fund-raiser with fellow Queens Democrat Monserrate, said he was angry with the program's denouncers.
"I cannot stand idly by and see something that is working be ignored," said Addabbo. "The project seems to work. I've seen it firsthand."
Yes indeed, and I've seen David Blaine levitate so that must be the real deal as well. The Trade-Center Cleanup Scam And Discount House Of Detox has drawn more than it's share of shoofly's and charlatans because every time the medical profession reminds us that the cops and firemen working there have about the same amount of health problems as the general populace that didn't work there, the Only Ones and their backers become so enraged that not even parking tickets are written so what's a city to do.
The cops and firemen aren't on board with such Cruise shenanigans simply because the money being tossed at it is peanuts compared to their demands for even more of a free lunch than the most liberal city in the country is offering. What they did on 9/11 was their finest hour. Then 9/12 came along and they could not sustain so high a level of service and no one is surprised.
But so marvelous a piece of a** as Katie is welcome anytime.