Vendors and Tourists Take Bomb Scare in Stride

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Times Square had a very close call this weekend. An SUV packed with improvised explosives failed to go off, but officials say that if it had, it may have caused significant damage to the surrounding area, which was filled with tourists. The police and federal investigators are currently examining the vehicle for evidence and poring through surveillance video in the area.

WNYC's Arun Venugopal breaks down what happened and how tourists and vendors in the area are responding:

As you understand it, what was the sequence of events?
Vendors in the area noticed the Pathfinder. Duane Jackson, who sells t-shirts, saw something was not right.

"So immediately I looked around," Jackson says. "Whose car is this? At that same time the mounted police came around the corner. They were like, whose car is this? We said we don't know whose car it is. Slowly after that, the smoke started coming from the back."

Jackson says he ran down the street and watched as more police were called in and, eventually, a police bomb-squad robot went to work on the car.

Who and what the authorities are looking for now?

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly held a press conference yesterday to provide an update. "We're currently examining video that shows a white male in his 40s, in Shubert Alley, looking back in the direction of West 45th street. He also was seen shedding a dark-colored shirt, wearing a red one underneath," Kelly said.

He said police had gone through video from some 30 of the city's surveillance cameras, out of more than 80 in the area. They'll also be looking at video from cameras owned by private businesses in the neighborhood.

In a worst case scenario, a lot of people could've been hurt by this car bomb. You spoke to a number of tourists from around the world -- how did they feel to be caught up in something like this?
The tourists I spoke to were not all that fazed, on the whole. Within hours of Times Square re-opening to traffic, it appeared to be as crowded as ever. Many tourists praised the NYPD for getting the area back on its feet.

Kary Jablonka was visiting from upstate New York. He says that it's important to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. "The world is full of crazy people, whether they have a political agenda or some psychologically driven agenda. They're going to do things. And if we let that intimidate that us, then they win," Jablonka says.

Bev Burke from Rochester hadn't spent much time in NYC before. "But I'll tell you, today, I feel like 'I love New York City!'" she says. "I want to come back. It's cool, and everybody has taken things in stride. Business is taken care of. I think it's cool."

Some Marriott visitors who were displaced and moved into a banquet room for a number of hours did say they were frustrated by their experience.

Despite the hundreds of surveillance cameras in midtown, with many more to come in the years ahead, it was finally a couple vendors who caught this. You spoke to a couple of them. What did they have to say?
Well, Ron Johnson, a vendor and a veteran, says the vendors in the area operate as an informal security network.

"First of all, we have military training," Johnson says. "We're extra eyes and ears out here, at all times. But we don't get that kind of recognition from the city -- until something like this happens."


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Comments [7]


We're fortunate that he failed Bomb Making 101, yet that does not mean that there are other more competent potential terrorists out there. i deal with this while continuing to love living in NYC, using public transit,frequenting public places is by hoping that the odds and the work of the various anti-terrorist efforts are in my favor.

May. 05 2010 04:19 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ

The serious intent of the person or persons involved was.IMHO, to scare, to intimidate, to threaten the psyche and the economy at one and the same time.
The World Trade Center disasters, yes before 9/11 as well as that iconic day itself, demonstrate to us that we must neither underestimate or overestimate our enemies. We must plan our defense, whatever and however, but NOT become a police state like those of Hitler, Stalin or Edi Amin, in the process.
New York, has on a daily basis, excitement enough.
We must be spared these threats. The United Nations once was thought to be the answer to conflicts, but its membership today defies the concept of UNITED or democratic with a small d.
Hope, alone, will not procure the just society that sane people desire. We need REAL leaders, not elected officials acting as servants of the paying lobbyists. The MEDIA must take on the responsibility like a Mike Wallace approach to seek out the truth, not merely accept all the time "spin control" and nonchalantly act as if they were given a truthful answer and go on to the next "equally not-to-be-really-answered" question.
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Wagnerian heldentenor, opera composer & director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute Website: www.Wagner

May. 03 2010 07:11 PM

I often see things different than most, but I can't get past the almost laughable incompetence of the attempted bomber(s). Does a hodge-podge of propane tanks from charcoal grills, cans of gasoline, consumer-grade fireworks, non-explosive fertilizer and an alarm clock that could have been purchased at Duane Reade really rise to the level of terrorism? Potentially dangerous, yes, but based on appearances alone, this could have been accomplished by a disturbed 11-year-old. Not to minimize threats to people's lives, but passers by were probably in more danger when the SUV was being parked. Is the country really going to fixate on this while 5,000 barrels of crude are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every day? See something, say something, but America, please keep some perspective.

May. 03 2010 06:07 PM


When you ask why this doesn't happen more often given the ease of creating a car bomb, your guests site various logistical concerns.

No one bothered to suggest that the majority of our of fellow humans aren't murderous bastards.

The actions of .0000001% of us effects so much policy hub bub.

May. 03 2010 10:35 AM

This incident has made me more concerned about possible attacks on the transit system or in a large department store.

May. 03 2010 10:19 AM

Attention Conspiracy Theorists:

How much planning & coordination was necessary to secure a primo parking space in the middle of Times Square on a Saturday evening?

May. 03 2010 10:19 AM
Liz Reddick

Why do news reports (including WNYC) continue to say the person of interest was seen "in an alley" when he actually was seen in Shubert Alley? It is misleading to anyone not familiar with the Times Square area.

May. 03 2010 08:39 AM

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