Protection Racket

Questions about Albany's cut of New York's homeland security money

In fact, "New York is actually way ahead of the curve," says Walt Purdy, vice president of the Virginia-based Terrorism Research Center. "The things I have seen in New York, compared to other places—the gathering of intelligence, the bringing in of experts—it's kind of like a Who's Who in the counter-terrorism world. The public doesn't see a lot of those things taking place."

Some of what the NYPD does, however, is made public. For example, the department offers a laundry list of steps it takes during heightened alerts. It sends harbor units to protect ferries, deploys bomb experts, stations Hercules units (the guys with the body armor and big guns) throughout the city, and sends undercover teams into the subways, among other things.

But while those tactics could thwart a terrorist plot, none of them likely would have prevented 9-11. In reports since the WTC attack, it was the city's response after the planes hit that drew praise and criticism, and it's there that new grants of money, whether from the feds or the state, could go.

It's well-known that on 9-11, some of the biggest problems were with the fire department's radios, such that some firefighters may not have heard the order to evacuate. Signals were too weak to reach as high as firefighters climbed. There was confusion over whether the repeater channel, used to boost those signals, was working. Too many firefighters were on one radio channel, and others were doomed because they were listening to another.

Since then, things have improved: The FDNY reprogrammed radios to provide more channels, and now battalion chiefs carry post radios that can boost signals inside high-rises. But there are still dead zones, says the union that represents FDNY lieutenants, captains, and chiefs. "We have coverage in many situations, and the goal is to have 100 percent coverage, and right now we do not have the infrastructure that will support 100 percent coverage," says John Dunne of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "We could always use more funding."

Some of that funding could come out of the state's share of the federal urban security funds.

But Vallone tells the Voice, "What's actually going on is none of [the state's share] is being spent here. It's hard enough to get our fair share from Washington. Now we've got to fight Albany."

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