City Officials Continue To Badger Chertoff
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, continuing the city's effort to change Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff's mind and restore the 40 percent slash in anti-terror funding made recently, patiently ticked off a history of terror incidents here over the past 16 years to emphasize the risk to the city. "It's obvious that New York is at the top of the terrorist target list," he declared.
Kelly's history lesson was part of his testimony at a joint City Council hearing convened by Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin and Public Safety Committee Chairman Peter Vallone Jr. to evaluate the effects of the Homeland Security cuts.
The final entry on Kelly's list, which included the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and other actual or failed attacks, concluded with the arrest of Syed Hashmi of Flushing, who was arrested in London on June 6 for allegedly working with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
"No other city comes anywhere close to us with this litany of attempts and successful attacks," the Police Commissioner said bluntly, summing up his remarks.
Kelly also revealed that as a result of the almost $200 million decrease in the city's requested funding, a key security plan covering Lower Manhattan and Wall Street was being halted.
The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative put $111 million into installing a security camera system in the Financial District.
"This program right now has been put on hold until we can take a look at the funding stream," Kelly stated.
Vallone (D-Astoria) summed up the testimony heard at the City Hall hearing with, "This is Washington telling New York to drop dead again."
Weprin (D-Hollis) said in summary: "This 40 percent cut in homeland security funding for the most vulnerable city in the country not only does not make sense, but is a slap in the face from those
who were so sympathetic after September 11 and exacerbates New York City's balance of payments deficit with Washington."
The hearings capped a week of continuing criticism of Chertoff and his agency, ranging from Washington and Albany to Wall Street and including brickbats by Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Anthony Weiner, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, the Bloomberg mayoral administration and a dozen top Wall Street firms.
Crowley (D-Queens/The Bronx) proposed adding $750 million for American cities in the Homeland Security appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2007 that would have offset the 40 percent decrease in anti-terror funding suffered by New York City. The Republican-controlled House defeated it.
Weiner complained that Police Department overtime costs have skyrocketed nearly 200 percent because of increased anti-terror duties since 9/11. He proposed legislation that removes spending restrictions on anti-terror funds to allow cities like New York to invest in their real homeland security needs.
Gianaris (D-Astoria) called for Chertoff's resignation after the secretary allegedly lied about reasons for shortchanging New York City in the distribution of anti-terror funding.
Gianaris said Chertoff claimed in a June 1 speech that some of the funding diverted from New York City is intended to protect a Connecticut power plant that produces the majority of electricity for New York-"a complete and utter falsehood," Gianaris charged.
In fact, Gianaris stated, New York City is required to provide a minimum of 80 percent of its electricity from within city limits, and in fact generates 90 percent of its own electric power needs.
"Michael Chertoff told a dangerous lie to cover up his failure to provide New York with anti-terror funding," Gianaris said. "It's one thing to deny New York funding for political purposes. It is entirely another to lie about it to avoid criticism."
Meanwhile, at the Weprin-Vallone hearings at City Hall, the Bloomberg administration said that with less money from Washington and so many anti-terror programs to fund, there are difficult decisions to make about where the money will be spent.
Bloomberg spokesman Jordan Barowitz said the city's counter-terrorism programs include the Police, Fire and Health Departments. "We have difficult decisions to make," he said.
Stuart A. Klein, First Deputy Director of the city Office of Management and Budget (OMB), responding to questions from councilmembers, said no final decisions had been reached about spending some $124.5 million.
Klein said all of the anti-terror projects are being analyzed by the mayor's office, other agencies and Kelly, and when a decision is made it will be forwarded to Homeland Security.
Also, last Monday, Russ Krocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, said his agency would work closely with the city to help expedite the flow of funds from Washington, but the city would have to decide on priorities.