The city’s security plans also include numerous helicopters, bomb squads, radiation detectors and counter-sniper teams on rooftops.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly outlined at a news conference Tuesday what they said were the most extensive — and most expensive — anti-terror efforts in the city’s history.
“There is no specific threat that we know of to New York City,” said Bloomberg. But, he said, there are threats to “every city.”
“We live in a dangerous world, and we’re trying to make sure that if we’re making a mistake, it’s on the side of being overly cautious.”
Security efforts across the United States have been “ramped up in an unprecedented way” through the end of the week, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Tuesday. (Full story)
Some major cities such as New York; Washington; Chicago, Illinois; and Las Vegas, Nevada, plan to close parts or all of their airspace on New Year’s Eve, when huge crowds traditionally gather to celebrate in public.
The airspace over Manhattan will be closed, and Kelly said the city has helicopters equipped with tracking devices and long-distance cameras.
Bloomberg said he asked the federal Department of Homeland Security to help provide air cover. The department has a policy of not saying publicly where it is deploying airplanes, he said.
The department raised the U.S. terror alert level to orange, or “high” — second most serious on the five-tiered scale — on December 21 and warned that major cities could be targeted during the holiday period.
“I don’t think there’s a city that has done more and sustained a higher level of security and protection than New York City,” Ridge said.
Bloomberg said he would be in Times Square. Visitors should feel safe and “leave the worrying to the professionals,” he said.
Times Square will be sealed off to traffic at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and visitors will have to walk through magnetometers to get to viewing areas, the mayor said. All backpacks and bags will be searched, he said.
New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey said revelers coming from his state should expect delays because of random searches by state police at the Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge — the three major routes across the Hudson River to the city.
“We understand this may infringe on civil liberties, but most importantly we have a responsibility to keep our families safe,” he told CNN. (Full story)
Kelly said several thousand uniformed police officers will be on patrol, and undercover officers will ride subways and mix in the Times Square crowd, which organizers said they expect to be larger than last year’s gathering of 750,000, The Associated Press reported.
Manhole covers will be welded shut, and trash receptacles, mailboxes and newspaper vending machines will be removed, Kelly said.
Heavily armed teams will be in place, backed by bomb squads, canine squads, and units that oversee highways, aviation and emergency services, he said.
“We will pay, and are paying, close attention to hotels and sensitive locations such as landmark buildings, the financial district, and ferry terminals,” Kelly said.
He noted that the extent of coverage is an increase over last year’s security plan.
Bloomberg said the reason for the heightened security is that there will be a large number of people together at a symbolic event.
“Should you feel less or more threatened today than any other day? No,” he said.
“You should go about your business. When we ratchet up security, … it is to make sure your level of security doesn’t change.
“Sadly, terrorism is something that we have to live with in this world, and New York City has been living with this in our memory since 9/11.”
Bloomberg did not say how much the New Year’s Eve security efforts would cost.