Politicians up for election like to refer to the area around the former World Trade Center sites as “hallowed ground,” but it’s easy to forget that people actually live nearby, whether in the enormous Battery Park City apartment complexes just to the west, or in the Chambers Street neighborhood north of where the Towers fell.
Now that the redevelopment of the site is nearing completion, residents who braved toxic ash and long months away from home in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks face another problem: the life-altering security procedures the NYPD is planning to institute in the area around the new, 1776-foot-tall One World Trade.
According to the New York Times, plans for the neighborhood include bollards to keep vehicles away from nearby buildings; blast-resistant barriers (called “sally ports”) that police will be able to raise and lower at will; vehicle checkpoints; and heavily-guarded security stations.
Although some of downtown Manhattan’s main arteries will still be freely accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, even people on bikes will have to dismount to get past police checkpoints. Using motor vehicles will be all but impossible for those living in the immediate environs of the World Trade Center memorial site, and the newer One World Trade.
To make matters worse, though, the proposed security measures won’t just affect the so-called “WTC campus,” they’ll restrict movement from the southern tip of Manhattan to the vast majority of the rest of the island, pushing traffic toward Brooklyn and creating a bottleneck east of One World Trade as drivers will try to avoid the credentialing necessary to get past the campus.
In response to the restrictions, a group of local residents and a shop owner are now suing the NYPD to open the books on the development process that produced the 800-odd-page security plan for the neighborhood. The problem is, according to the city, the plaintiffs already had ample chance to make their feelings on the security plan known, adding that “Residents who need to travel through the security perimeter for access to their homes would have the option of enrolling themselves and their vehicles in the Trusted Access Program.”
Mary Perillo, one of those suing the NYPD, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I live in the City of New York — not ‘on campus’ or in a gated community. I do not want to prove who I am to come home to my own apartment.”
Indeed, comments recorded in the NYPD’s report itself note:
…the NYPD’s lack of outreach and interaction with the local communities (or any other community) in developing the Campus Security Plan. To date, there has been no effort by the Department to undertake a dialogue and work with affected residents and businesses with the shared goal of coming up with a plan that serves both security and community concerns…
Mary Perillo was herself a signatory to another statement recorded in the NYPD’s report:
There are, after all, many other buildings in New York City that offer high-profile targets – the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings to name but two – that stand unprotected by street barriers or guard posts. They are integral parts of their neighborhoods and enrich them… they are part of the street life that surrounds them. Under the proposed Security plan, the WTC Campus would be the opposite of this.
Absent from the report is any comprehensive look at what threats the NYPD feels it’s facing at the new WTC campus, and whether actual “chatter” prompted the tough security measures – or just an unwillingness to be seen as taking risks. Either way, the 9/11 Environmental Action group’s motion to force the NYPD to disclose its decisionmaking process looks like a delaying action – and the unfortunate inconveniences New Yorkers will face downtown more and more like a fait accompli.