For Eric Alexander, chief operating officer of brokerage firm Wall Street Access, even the slim possibility that the Republican National Convention could disrupt his trading floor was reason enough to make alternate plans.
So Wall Street Access will relocate employees, including traders, to a backup building in New Jersey during the GOP event, which takes place at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.
Alexander said he is not as afraid of a terrorist attack as he is of commuting delays that heavy convention security could create. "We don't want to take the chance of inconveniencing our customers in any way," he said.
Across Wall Street, executives are making similar plans, both to ensure that the convention does not harm operations vital to the nation's capital markets and to accommodate employees nervous about the chilling threat of terrorist attacks.
Brokerage giant Morgan Stanley plans to relocate a significant number of workers to backup facilities in Westchester County, just outside the city, a person familiar with the plans said.
The goal is both to test backup systems in case of a future emergency and to accommodate employees who want to stay away from midtown, where Morgan Stanley is located.
In addition, Morgan Stanley is encouraging some workers to take vacation during the pre-Labor Day convention week, traditionally among the slowest periods on Wall Street. Some are also being given the option to telecommute. Morgan Stanley declined to comment.
Other Wall Street firms are still trying to decide what to do, but many, like Morgan Stanley, are anticipating that many employees will simply take the week off.
"It's dead around here that week anyway," said an employee at a large brokerage firm who declined to be identified because employees were not authorized to speak publicly. "My phone doesn't ring. Trading is very light."
Representatives for three of New York's biggest firms, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, all declined to comment, saying they do not discuss personnel or security issues.
All of New York's large securities firms developed backup facilities following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The bond market, which operates over phone lines between traders, also has a plan to ensure continuity in the event of another attack on New York.
Security, meanwhile, is already tight in Lower Manhattan's financial district, which is viewed by law enforcement as a top terror target. But police presence will intensify during convention week, especially around the New York Stock Exchange, said people familiar with the matter who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. The exchange has no plans to make special arrangements for employees during the week, a source said.
Paul J. Browne, deputy commissioner and spokesman for the New York Police Department, said no specific instructions had been given to Wall Street firms about how they should operate during convention week. But he said the department communicates daily with heads of security at all of the large brokerage firms and will give regular updates during the convention about any disturbances that could have an impact on the firms' operations.
Businesses inside Penn Plaza, the large office complex next to Madison Square Garden, are urging employees to take time off during the convention. And retail shops around the Garden are preparing for a difficult week that could bring a spike in business but also serious headaches.
"It's definitely going to be harder to get my employees in," said Paul Vellios, 49, co-owner of Cafe 31, a popular restaurant and watering hole across the street from the Garden. "If we can get customers through security and in here, then it can't hurt," he said of the convention.
Vellios said the biggest problem could be deliveries, which will be allowed only late at night or early in the morning and will be subject to intensive searches by law enforcement. He added that he plans to ask all his employees to come to work if business picks up.
And what if they are nervous?
"I'll buy them a shot, and we will all be fine," Vellios joked.
In Boston, where Democrats will hold their presidential nominating convention July 26 to 29 at the FleetCenter, businesses also are making plans to deal with commuting headaches and the threat of terror attacks.
Mutual fund giant Fidelity has backup facilities outside Boston if anything disrupts operations at the firm's downtown location, which houses 8,000 employees. Spokesman Vincent Loporchio said Fidelity employees would be able to use flexible work hours during convention week. The firm will also provide alternate transportation for anyone whose commute is made difficult by heightened convention security and road closings.
Lt. Kevin Foley, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department, said no specific instructions have been given to Boston businesses for the convention. He said some professional service firms near the FleetCenter probably would close or at least dramatically curtail operations.
But he said retail businesses near the FleetCenter would likely stay open, despite restrictions on deliveries similar to those in New York. "There are a dozen or more restaurants around there hoping to capitalize on the crowds as opposed to closing down," he said.