WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
New York, NY –
Members of New York's Congressional delegation blasted the Obama administration this week for cutting city security funding, but Washington says hundreds of millions already sent to the region remains unspent.
In a letter from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Rep. Peter King obtained by WNYC, Napolitano said that, between 2006 and 2009, $275 million has remained unspent for city port and transit security.
"We are concerned, however, that more than $275 million dollars in Federal funding for New York City's port and transit security since 2006 has not yet been drawn down. In fact, New York has yet to draw down on any of the transit funding it received last year," Napolitano wrote. "Given the sense of urgency we all feel, we are focused on working closely with Congress and our state and local partners to ensure these funds are put to work quickly to address important security needs in New York City and throughout the State."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement saying that tens of millions of dollars in pending homeland security grants to New York City are hung up waiting for FEMA approval, something DHS confirmed was a problem. None of the unspent money is under direct city control but is passed through the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Port Authority. Neither agency responded for the record.
In a statement, Gov. David Paterson said the funding fight needs to be settled. "The safety of New Yorkers, and all Americans, is too important to be clouded by a public squabble between government agencies and officials," Paterson said. "I am calling on federal officials to work with the New York Congressional Delegation, my Office of Homeland Security and the Mayor's Office to come to a mutual resolution on this dispute."
The dispute began earlier this week, when local lawmakers including King and Sen. Charles Schumer criticized what they said was a planned 27 percent cut in security funding for New York City from the Department of Homeland Security.
The Obama administration countered that anti-terror funding budgeted for New York would actually increase when $100 million in federal stimulus money was included. The administration says total funding for security initiatives is set to be $245 million, a 14 percent net increase over the previous year's budget.
This latest back and forth over funding comes on the heels of the disclosure that half of the MTA's security cameras don't work.