Vowing an “unprecedented” level of collaboration to counter the threat of global terrorism, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie briefed reporters today on the initial findings of their ballyhooed bi-state plan to ensure the safety of the region.
The briefing, coming 10 days after the New York and New Jersey governors declared they would review the states’ preparedness for a terrorist attack, was relatively short on details, promising an indefinite surge in police presence at airports, trains, bridges, tunnels and landmarks in both states. The governors promised additional “intelligence sharing” and signed a memorandum affirming their commitment–but left many unanswered questions about the costs of the plan, how exactly police would be deployed and for how long this surge would be needed.
“This is a different world. This nation has enemies. It has enemies that are hell bent on our destruction,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters on the 10th floor of 7 World Trade Center this morning. “It’s almost as if the terrorist threat has metastasized. It’s grown larger and larger in numbers. We estimate ISIS has over 30,000 people, Europeans involved, people with passports. It is larger, more sophisticated, it has more resources–it’s more complex than it was and we are still one of the top targets.”
“For us, if anything, the challenge has grown,” the governor added.
The governors said they would have a classified analysis and coordination plan between the states delivered within 30 days of September 15, when they first announced their plan. Starting immediately, bag checks will increase on PATH trains, subways, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North cars. The Port Authority Police will introduce more K-9 patrols and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will boost uniformed office presence at “high volume” transportation hubs 30 to 50 percent. Vehicle checks are set to increase at Port Authority-controlled crossings like the George Washington Bridge and New York State Police will assign dozens of troopers to train platforms and on the trains themselves. (The NYPD’s role in this increase was not mentioned, and yesterday Mayor Bill de Blasio said the police were already in such a state readiness that New Yorkers were unlikely to “see profound differences” in their visibility.)
It was not made entirely clear what imminent threat prompted the review: the governors emphasized it was not in response to one major terrorist threat, but said they were working in concert with the federal government. The United States this week launched airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State, a radical Islamist organization that has seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, and government officials also said they had, in the process, destroyed another obscure terrorist group plotting an attack against the West.
Mr. Cuomo put no end date on the police surge, implying it could be a permanent part of the region’s landscape.
“It depends on what happens,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Our response will be in proportion to the threat. If you ask me to look in a crystal ball, I don’t believe this situation really goes away in the short term.”
“But do I think we’re going to have a New York, New Jersey region that is free from a terrorist threat? Uh, no, I don’t,” he continued. “We’ve adjusted to a new normal when it comes to terrorism.”
Mr. Christie, a Republican, dismissed a question about the costs and logistics of the counter-terrorism plan. “I think that’s info that’s better kept amongst law enforcement professionals that are gonna execute on this. There’s no reason for us to be tipping our hand and giving a ton of information that I think would somehow lessen our capability and our effectiveness,” Mr. Christie said.
“And in terms of cost, the bottom line is Governor Cuomo and I are committed to making sure that this region is protected so we will work out the issues of cost amongst the two governments and the other agencies that are involved,” he added. “I don’t think there’s anybody in either state who’s gonna to come to us and say, ‘you’re spending too much to keep us safe.'”