N.Y. Grapples With Terror Threat, Stiff Security
By Michael Powell and Michelle Garcia
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 2, 2004; 8:18 AM
NEW YORK -- Teams of heavily armed police and counterterrorism squads Monday barred trucks from certain bridges and tunnels, established checkpoints along Manhattan streets and doubled security around key office buildings, from the New York Stock Exchange to Citigroup Center and the United Nations.
In Newark, police in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles set up posts yesterday around the gleaming 24-story Prudential Financial headquarters, which is said to be a terror target. Police erected metal barricades closing streets on either side of the office tower and barring access to the sidewalk and curb in front.
The most stringent security measures went into effect Monday morning, as officials warned commuters to expect delays on the roads and at garages and office security stations.
New Yorkers have lived in a state of orange alert since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But this alert is different, confined as it is to five buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington, after evidence emerged that terrorists apparently conducted extensive surveillance of these buildings.
"You might think of this as the enemy's intelligence report," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told a City Hall news conference Sunday. "There's no question that they've done a bit of research and they're serious."
City officials will bar trucks from the Williamsburg Bridge spanning the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan by diverting the trucks to the Manhattan Bridge, where they will put in place extra squads of police. Likewise, Port Authority officials have barred trucks from the Holland Tunnel, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan. Some of the streets around Grand Central Station were also closed Monday morning, the Associated Press reported.
The extra security may be harder to notice in neighborhoods such as Wall Street. On most days, the New York Stock Exchange already resembles an armed camp, with black cement barriers, bomb-sniffing dogs and police officers armed with rifles. But city officials will dispatch still more officers with their Operation Atlas counterterrorism teams to patrol streets and subway stations in Lower Manhattan.
The Coast Guard has dispatched several vehicles to patrol near the targeted buildings.
Elsewhere, 76 surge teams of police officers will continue to swarm certain blocks with squad cars and tactical trucks, sirens blaring and lights flashing. The idea, counterterrorism officials say, is to create a sense of uncertainty and disorient potential attackers.
"We will spare no expense and take no chances," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the Sunday news conference. "Some of it will be visible and intentionally so. And some of it is virtually invisible."
This last was a reference to the fact that security officials have placed detectors throughout the city's business district in hopes of ferreting out possible chemical and radiological weapons.
Bloomberg and Kelly acknowledged that they face a clever and competent enemy, and that the risk is that police will focus on securing less than a half-dozen buildings while terrorists ready an attack elsewhere. "There's no question there's a limited amount of resources," Bloomberg said.
Police officials urged landlords to secure their air-conditioning and ventilation systems against a chemical attack. Still, Kelly said that intelligence reports lean more toward the possibility of a bomb attack. "Explosives are considered more likely at this time," Kelly said.
As city and state officials mixed talk of imminent terror attacks, they also urged New York and New Jersey residents to go about their lives, and shop and eat and enjoy life in the city. That extends even to the buildings that may be targeted. At the 59-floor Citigroup Center on 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue, security officials closed the street-level glass atrium and 16 police officers surrounded the building. But the subway station beneath the building remained open, and a restaurant and theater were packed in a plaza at the foot of the building.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company