Security plan for WTC means army of cops, barriers and traffic hell

Security plan for WTC means army of cops, barriers and traffic hell

BY ALISON GENDAR and DOUGLAS FEIDEN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/04/06/2008-04-06_security_plan_for_wtc_means_army_of_cops.html

Sunday, April 6th 2008, 4:00 AM

Secret NYPD anti-terror plans would turn Ground Zero into Fort WTC – a bulked-up, battened-down, barricaded Ring of Steel, the Daily News has learned.

Some 25 impregnable barriers and 13 guard booths would encircle the World Trade Center footprint under a draft plan circulated in late February.

At least 24 blocks on eight major streets would be closed or restricted to traffic under the proposal, which has been reviewed in City Hall and at 1 Police Plaza and is still being revised.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne wouldn’t address any specifics in the draft plan.

"No decision has been made on staffing or other security arrangements," he said.

He called the number of checkpoints and guard booths "outdated," saying they "provide an exaggerated picture of security plans.

"The NYPD is working closely with the Port Authority to provide for a safe, inviting and commercially viable World Trade Center site, not the fortress-like environment you describe," Browne said.

The draft plan is modeled after London’s Ring of Steel, a maze of narrowed roads in the city’s financial district with limited entry points that force vehicles into chokepoints that cops can easily cordon off.

It represents a breathtaking about-face from the work of post-9/11 planners, who called for restoring the original street grid on the site, reconnecting Greenwich and Fulton streets, and breaking up the superblock where the Trade Center once stood.

If the plan goes through, getting into the Trade Center won’t be easy: Tenants, chauffeurs, livery cabbies and tour-bus drivers who need regular access to the complex would have to register with cops and win approval as "trusted drivers," sources familiar with the plan say.

Electronic transponders would be attached to their vehicles to allow constant monitoring – and they’d have access to "trusted vehicle lanes" on Church St. separated from other traffic by "raised island dividers," the draft shows.

Even then, screeners would examine the trunk, interior and undercarriage of all northbound vehicles on Church St. in a bomb-detection effort as surveillance cameras that scan license plates rake the scene, say officials briefed on the plan.

Mayor Bloomberg’s spokesman, Stu Loeser, insisted City Hall was working to "make the entire area accessible, open and secure."

Community leaders, who have yet to see the hush-hush plan, were more guarded.

"Safety is the No. 1 concern, but it’s got to be managed sensitively. If there are security checkpoints all over lower Manhattan, and residents, workers and visitors can’t move about freely, it’s a real problem," said Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1.

Added Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who hasn’t been briefed on specifics, "Effective security measures are essential…. However, these measures can – and must – be implemented in a way that supports and enhances our vibrant 24-hour community."

Expect a traffic nightmare if the plan is enacted: Every northbound vehicle on Church St. would first have to clear a "credentialing zone" at Cedar St., then pass through a barrier into a "screening zone" called a "sally port," a secure corral that can be sealed off on both ends. All this simply to drive past the site.

That would play havoc at rush hour because one-way Church St. has historically been the companion to southbound Broadway in moving vehicles in and out of downtown, said Daily News traffic columnist Sam (Gridlock Sam) Schwartz.

"I don’t want to second-guess the NYPD, but if you block Church St., you might as well make all of lower Manhattan into a pedestrian mall," he said.

Schwartz said 1,336 northbound vehicles per hour cross the intersection of Church and Dey Sts. during the morning rush hour. In the evening rush, it’s 1,154 vehicles per hour.

Coming from the north, buses taking tourists to the Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum and drivers taking passengers to the office towers would experience the same obstacles to reach the inner perimeter.

First they’d have IDs and transponders verified at the "credential checkpoint" north of Barclay St., then they’d enter the sally port for comprehensive vehicle screening.

One more barricade would await on West Broadway before trusted drivers could crawl south on Greenwich St., finally entering the "secure zone," which would be dotted with raised island dividers.

Officials at the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., agencies responsible for the rebirth of the Trade Center, declined to discuss specifics of the NYPD plan, but both said the Trade Center would be secure.

The emergence of a detailed NYPD draft plan to protect the most vulnerable 16 acres in America comes after The News disclosed March 26 that the NYPD was scrambling to wrest control of all Ground Zero security from the Port Authority.

NYPD officials first called for 1,475 cops on the site, but sources said that number may have been floated as a bargaining chip in talks with the Port Authority over site control.

Police staffing levels have since been scaled back to about 600, sources say.

Under the draft plan, 12 lieutenants, 32 traffic agents, 44 sergeants and 280 police officers would handle screening and checkpoints. About 250 other cops would monitor surveillance cameras and on-site security operations.

The News on Feb. 24 also revealed police concerns about security flaws at the site, including an underground Vehicle Security Center that hasn’t been fully designed and three Church St. office towers that have too much glass and are too close to city streets.

agendar@nydailynews.com

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