WTC Slated to Get 700-Officer Command
New York Daily News via YellowBrix
January 19, 2011
NEW YORK – Nearly 700 city cops will be assigned to a new command dedicated to policing the Freedom Tower and surrounding area, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday.
The World Trade Center Command will not be fully staffed until Ground Zero is completely rebuilt.
But the 673 officers that will eventually work out of the new command will give it substantially more manpower than any other NYPD precinct.
The precincts that have the largest headcounts – the Midtown South Precinct in Manhattan and the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn – each have about 400 cops.
Officers will be assigned to the new command incrementally, but scores of cops will already be in place by the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
“We will have a significant presence there when the memorial opens \[this\] Sept. 11,” Kelly said at a Police Foundation breakfast Tuesday.
The new command will further the NYPD’s effort to put lower Manhattan on lockdown by complementing the network of security cameras and license plate readers known as the “Ring of Steel.”
Kelly said Tuesday that “a solid defense against terrorism” will provide a safe working environment for businesses, and help spur Ground Zero’s rebirth.
“There’s a simple lesson in this: Commercial success is not hindered but helped by responsible, thoughtful and thorough security measures,” Kelly said. "That is precisely what we will provide at the World Trade Center.
“We owe no less to the people who will be there every day.”
Spearheading that effort will be the head of the new command, Deputy Inspector Donald McHugh of the Counterterrorism Bureau. He is currently drawing up plans to secure the 9-11 memorial, Kelly said.
The NYPD is working to find the new command a permanent downtown base, Kelly said. In the meantime, a temporary headquarters is being planned at a housing police office in the East Village.
Since the NYPD has roughly 6,000 fewer cops now than it did shortly after 9-11, a big question surrounds the new command: Where is Kelly going to get the cops to staff it?
Police brass said it is not clear how many of the 673 cops will be new hires and how many will be pulled from other assignments.
And it appears the city budget will have to absorb any additional financial impact, since – as of right now – no federal money has been earmarked for the Ground Zero cops.
The NYPD just graduated a new Police Academy class late last month, but Kelly has recently said that budget deliberations will determine if a new class will begin later this year.
The new command is the result of a 2008 agreement that resolved a turf battle over Ground Zero policing that saw the NYPD spar with the Port Authority, which controls the 16-acre site.
Under the terms of the controversial agreement, the NYPD got overwhelming control over Ground Zero. The Port Authority will run security at the PATH hub and take part in police operations in the new office towers.
Before the 2008 agreement was reached, Port Authority cops were slamming the NYPD for trying to wrest control of Ground Zero security. And families of some of the 37 Port Authority cops killed on 9-11 said giving the NYPD control would dishonor their fallen loved ones.
But judging by the reaction to Kelly’s announcement yesterday among some rank-and-file Port Authority officials, bitterness over the power struggle still remains.
“Commissioner Kelly’s plan for policing the World Trade Center assumes all is well in the rest of New York City’s neighborhoods,” Port Authority PBA President Paul Nunziato said in a stinging statement.
Nunziato accused Kelly of “duplicating the police services” that the Port Authority already provides at Ground Zero.
The NYPD’s top spokesman, Paul Browne, declined to comment on Nunziato’s remarks.
When asked earlier Tuesday to comment on other snipes from Port Authority sources, Browne simply said the new detail was part of the 2008 memorandum of understanding brokered between the two agencies.
And not all Port Authority officials were hurling barbs at the NYPD. Some said they thought it made sense for the NYPD to supply the manpower – and thereby absorb the bulk of the cost – for securing Ground Zero.
“It makes no sense to have a chunk of New York City where the NYPD doesn’t patrol,” a high-ranking Port Authority administrator said. “It’s stupid and outdated thinking to try to exclude the nation’s largest police force from a prime piece of the city.”
The Port Authority’s top official, Executive Director Christopher Ward, said the two sides have a common goal.
“The NYPD and the Port Authority remain committed to the safety and security of downtown,” he said.