N.Y. Steamed Over Terror Fund Cutbacks

June 2, 2006
DHS slates a 40 percent cut in anti-terror funding for New York

NEW YORK_From Times Square and the Empire State Building to the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, New York is a city of spectacular landmarks. Ask any of the 41 million tourists who visited last year.

But according to the Homeland Security Department, New York has no national monuments or icons - a determination that led to a 40 percent cut in anti-terrorism funding.

New Yorkers are seething over the news, and some are demanding the firing of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., charged that the Bush administration had "declared war on New York" with its decision to reduce anti-terrorism funding by $83 million while increases went to cities like Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., and Omaha, Neb.

"I'm not begrudging any other city, but why would you cut the No. 1 target in the country by 40 percent?" said King, who demanded an investigation. "How can you possibly justify that?"

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday said President Bush "should not come back to New York and stand with us" until his administration comes up with more money to keep New York safe.

"This is wrong and unfair, but also outrageous," Schumer said. "The bottom line is this is abandoning New York."

The cutback comes nearly five years after the terrorist attack that killed 2,749 people at the World Trade Center, and a week after a Pakistani immigrant was convicted of conspiring to blow up the subway station at Herald Square, the site of Macy's flagship store, one of the world's most popular shopping destinations.

In Washington, Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman said his agency would review its finding that New York City has no national monuments or icons that would be at risk of terrorist attack.

"We're going to go back and look at it," said Foresman, who said that the decision was made partly on attendance figures. A federal worksheet based on a variety of data was used to determine the "icon" status and the funding.

Chertoff defended the cut on Thursday, while acknowledging that New York City was still at the top of the U.S. threat list. He said the nearly $125 million in grants for New York were in line with the average amounts the city has gotten in the years since Sept. 11. He added that New York has gotten more than $500 million in all, and that is more than twice the total received by the next-highest-risk city, Los Angeles.

"When actual decisions get made it tends to rub people who came out on the short end the wrong way. We are always willing to listen to criticism," he said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The local tabloids have savaged Chertoff, with an editorial cartoon in the Daily News comparing him to Benedict Arnold. "Terror? What Terror?" asked a mocking front-page headline in the New York Post. "Shove off, Chertoff!" read page one of the Daily News.

Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., called for Chertoff's resignation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was less militant, although he questioned what was happening in Washington.

"I don't have to list the Brooklyn Bridge, the United Nations and Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building and the Stock Exchange," Bloomberg said. "So you really wonder what was going through somebody's mind."

Assorted terror plots targeting the subways and other city landmarks have come to light since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Schemes have mentioned the United Nations, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the federal building housing local FBI offices.

NYPD officials said the drastic cut in funding ignored the city's uncomfortable position as the top target for terrorists to strike. The department was depending on the federal money to:

_ Finance an $81.5 million proposal to safeguard Lower Manhattan and parts of midtown with a surveillance "ring of steel" modeled after security measures in London's financial district.

_ Pay half of the $200 million annual cost of heavily armored patrols - called Operation Atlas - and other current security measures, including protection for the nation's largest mass transit system.

_ Provide $38 million for counterterrorism training and equipment, such as biological and radioactive detection devices.

One out-of-towner visiting the Empire State Building on Thursday had no problem with the federal cutbacks.

"At some point, you have to stop pouring in money," said George Kent, 77, of Reno, Nev. "I think the national treasury needs the money."


Associated Press Writers Devlin Barrett, Sara Kugler, Lara Jakes Jordan, Desmond Butler and Tom Hays contributed to this report.