The WTC site addresses a unique set of security issues
Last week at the Jewish Heritage Museum, Community Board 1 (CB1) heard an overview of the Police Department’s initiatives to keep Lower Manhattan safe. Speaking to the board and general public on November 25th, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly sat with Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Falkenrath to outline the department’s “Lower Manhattan Security Initiative,” a $100 million anti-terrorism plan.
“I don’t have to tell members of the community board that you live and some of you work in, a very complex environment,” said Kelly, who has lived in Battery Park City for 18 years. “It’s a community of landmarks and intricate infrastructure. It’s a community that is still a financial capital of the world, and of course it’s also a community that’s home to a growing and vibrant residential [population].”
Add to those factors downtown’s high-profile targets such as Police Plaza, the New York Stock Exchange, and of course the World Trade Center (WTC), and it’s clear why the NYPD devotes the bulk of its anti-terrorism resources to Lower Manhattan.
To plan and maintain the area’s high level of security, the NYPD opened a new, state-of-the-art coordination center on lower Broadway in November. From there, approximately 30 officers collect and monitor data captured by the 150 cameras posted in public spaces south of Canal Street, including high-resolution license-plate readers at river crossings and other locations. As many as 3,000 more cameras are on the way by 2011 as the office grows.
Deputy Commissioner Falkenrath, who heads the department’s counter-terrorism unit, explained other downtown security initiatives in play and upcoming. He said that the coordination center will expand its data collection and monitoring to include radiation detectors. It also will expand its system of sensors for biological weapons such as anthrax, and continue to monitor the city for nuclear or “dirty bomb” attacks, which are among the most severe potential threats.
“There is, quite frankly, nothing like it anywhere in the world,” Falkenrath said about the unit’s advanced counter-terrorism systems. “It is the most advanced system of its kind.”
In addition to a significant overall police presence from river to river, for six years the NYPD has operated the critical-response vehicle surge program, for which each of the city’s 76 precincts sends one patrol car to different Manhattan locations exclusively for counter-terrorism work.
One of the biggest NYPD initiatives is dedicated to protecting the mass-transit system. “Our subway system is the largest in North America and the second largest in the world,” Falkenrath noted. “It’s a terribly difficult potential target to defend.” To combat threats on and in the city’s subways, police populate stations and trains, and randomly search riders’ bags for weapons and explosives -- a program implemented after London’s 2005 subway bombings.
PATH trains also are a “prime target,” said Falkenrath, who then explained that they are the city’s only mass-transit system not protected by the NYPD, but rather exclusively by the Port Authority Police Department. Still, NYPD is working with the agency on PATH security plans, particularly in the WTC area.
The WTC site, brings with it a unique set of security measures. The underground Vehicular Security Center, where support beams for the new WTC structures will be exposed, means that vehicles entering the complex are subject to registration and rigorous inspections. Tour buses may park in the garage or may be diverted to other locations for security purposes.
At grade, while Greenwich and Fulton Streets will be restored through the site, they, along with perimeter streets like Liberty and Vesey, will likely only be open to scheduled deliveries, public transportation, and WTC tenants. The city plans to split the four lanes of Church Street, making the east two lanes open to traffic, and west lanes part of the WTC security zone. Pedestrians, however, will have full access across the site.
Falkenrath said that special attention paid to the WTC site is essential. “We have to assume that it will be targeted in the future,” he said, “Our intention is to deter such an attack, providing the best possible defense to that area while maintaining its freedom and openness and economic viability.”