New Yorkers remained largely unfazed by the news that a credible but uncorroborated terrorism threat had been made against the city to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks — prompting heightened security around the five boroughs.
“I'm not worried,” said Kenneth Hayes, 56, as he waited for a Long Island Rail Road train to Oyster Bay at Penn Station. “I'm just concerned. I know how to follow directions and let experts do their job.”
Police increased focus on bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure — such as landmarks and government buildings — following the news on Thursday that officials were probing a credible but uncorroborated al-Qaida threat to use a car bomb on bridges or tunnels in New York City or Washington, D.C.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said New Yorkers could expect more bag inspections on subways, more bomb dogs on patrol and towing of illegally parked cars.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the threat was being taken seriously, but that the best thing New Yorkers could do was to “refuse to be intimated by it.”
“Go about your business as you normally would – but just be vigilant,” Bloomberg said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that he directed state police and National Guard to increase deployment in the city.
"I think they (New Yorkers) should feel comfortable and live their lives," Cuomo said. "I wouldn't do anything differently. That would be giving terrorists a victory."
In places like Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, law enforcement presence was moderately increased on Friday, and officers were checking bags.
Standing outside the terminal, Ross Goldberg said he had noticed more officers around town, but did not see much point to a big show of force.
(Photo: A police checkpoint at Canal and West streets in Manhattan on September 9/Ailsa Chang/WNYC)
“I think it's just to get people on awareness,” Goldberg said. “I don't really buy into it that much. It's like the fear-mongering there was after 2002 and 2003.”
At Canal Street in Lower Manhattan, police blocked two of the three southbound lanes on the West Side Highway. Some cars, particularly SUVs, trucks and vans, were being taken out of traffic and inspected further. Some drivers said they had been waiting in traffic for more than an hour.
“All of these precautions are on top of an already robust counter-terrorism overlay in place for the 10th anniversary commemoration at the World Trade Center site,” Kelly said.
NYPD personnel shifts would also be extended by four hours, increasing the size of the NYPD patrols, and transit, CT, highway and traffic bureaus by a third. The agency planned to proceed with a show of force at Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and the Times Square subway station, part of an earlier planned counter-terrorist drill.
“I’m glad they stepped up security,” said Steve Greiner, 56, who arrived on Friday morning to Penn from Raleigh, N.C., to visit his son. “You have to take it as a real threat, whether it is or it isn’t.”
Greiner, a native New Yorker, who moved to North Carolina after retiring a few years ago, said he expected the weekend to pass peacefully.
To reassure those more apprehensive that the city was well prepared to deal with the threat, the mayor rode the subway to work on Friday morning, as he usually does. In his weekly radio appearance on WOR on Friday morning he said he felt perfectly safe to do it.
(Photo: Police inspect a vehicle at Canal and West streets at a checkpoint in Manhattan/by Ailsa Chang)
“Keep in mind: We have threats all the time," Bloomberg said. "On the Internet, every day, there are threats of people, particularly around big sporting events and religious holidays, and around commemorations of things like 9/11. And each time the NYPD, with the FBI, we increase our security, which obviously we have done for this."
A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it was “at a heightened state of alert at all of our transportation facilities and at the World Trade Center site — including increased vehicle checks at all crossings, increased police presence at all facilities, and increased bag checks at the airports, PATH and Port Authority Bus Terminal.”
As of early Friday afternoon, those measures had not caused any delays.
Increased police presence seemed to have a reassuring effect on some, like Anna Wicklane, 52, who was heading back home to Shirley, Long Island, for the weekend. Coming to Penn Station, she said she noticed officers on “every corner.”
“I never felt safer in New York City than I have felt this morning,” she said.
Ailsa Chang, Jim O’Grady and Brian Zumhagen contributed reporting.