Brooklyn Bridge success
says nothing about Park Row

The disclosure last week that Al Qaeda continues to target Lower Manhattan may not be quite reassuring, but the fact that N.Y.P.D. security measures may have thwarted a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge does at least provide a degree of comfort to us all.

The U.S. Justice Dept. and the F.B.I. announced the arrest of Iyman Farris, an American citizen who had admitted to plotting to blow up the bridge. Farris, who met several times with Osama bin Laden, reportedly told his Al Qaeda operatives that the bridge was “too hot ” — too closely guarded to make any plot successful.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his anti-terrorist team deserve a good deal of credit for protecting the venerable and beautiful bridge, which serves as a means of transport for thousands of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists a day.

However, this credit should not be used — as we fear it might — as a reason to justify every single security measure Commissioner Kelly has ordered – particularly the closing of Park Row near police headquarters and the closing of part of City Hall Park.

We presume the bridge was targeted for the same reason the World Trade Center was targeted twice – namely they are among the world’s most famous structures and they are in the financial capital of the world. Even if an attack on the Brooklyn Bridge did not result in a large number of deaths, it would still attract intense worldwide attention because it is one of the best-known bridges in the world.

New York City has a large number of landmark sites – which is one of its greatest strengths, but also a reason why this city has to be more prepared for terrorists than any other city in the country. Two of those sites are certainly not City Hall and police headquarters. Both are in need of strong protection, but perhaps not as strong as Kelly and his boss, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, have ordered.

Although the City Hall building is a magnificent structure and a registered landmark and the place where the mayor and City Council do their work, we wonder if all of this justifies closing the park’s plaza off to most pedestrians, which effectively cuts the park in two.

More important than the park is the continued closure of Park Row – a vital connection between Chinatown and the rest of Lower Manhattan. The closure was implemented after Sept. 11 in order to protect Kelly’s headquarters. This is a vital goal, but as this page has pointed out before, it cannot be done while the economic and civil liberty effects to Lower Manhattan are completely ignored, which appears to be the case.

Kelly and Bloomberg have not indicated they have given any serious thought to any proposed mitigation measures for the roadway – such as reopening it with police checkpoints, allowing city or shuttle buses to bring residents and shoppers to and from Chinatown, reopening it to pedestrians, etc.

Police headquarters must be protected, but we have yet to be convinced that this requires putting a chokehold on Chinatown businesses and the residents of Chatham Green and Towers, who suffer the most from the closure.

We once again urge the mayor and commissioner to reexamine ways to reopen the street. The Brooklyn Bridge news should be cause to reassess the most likely targets and the protections needed, as well as an opportunity to look for areas where anti-terrorist funds are perhaps being wasted and could be used better in other parts of the city. Being too careful in too many places can mean you are not being careful enough where you most need to be. That is one of the dangers of keeping Park Row closed.


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