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Posts from the "Security" Category

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70 Year-Old Man Crushed, Killed by Security Truck Driver in Financial District

A reader sent in this photo of the crash that killed a man this afternoon on Broad Street.

At least two pedestrians were pinned by a pickup truck used as a movable security barrier on Broad Street near the New York Stock Exchange at approximately 1:30 p.m. this afternoon. One of the pedestrians, an unidentified 70 year-old man, has died. NY1 is reporting that the victim was a NYSE security guard who was eating lunch when the crash occurred.

Police say a woman was taken to New York Downtown Hospital with scraped knees after jumping out of the way. According to eyewitness reports, at least one other pedestrian had an injured leg.

The pickup trucks are moved to allow other vehicles to continue up Broad Street from Beaver Street at a security checkpoint. Gothamist is reporting that the drivers of the trucks, which are used when the security barriers are broken, have a reputation for dangerous behavior.

The driver in today’s crash, a 50 year-old man employed by T&M Protection Resources, a security company contracted by NYSE, remained on the scene and has not been charged with anything. NYPD says that no criminality is suspected. “Looks like an accident,” an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. Because the crash resulted in a death, NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad is investigating.

“Not sure if the pictures show it,” our tipster writes, “but there’s a large puddle of blood next to the wall. Having those trucks pull in and out of the path has always seemed like a bad idea.”

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The Public Square After Times Square

As a New Yorker, I’m no stranger to terrorist attacks, but I’ve probably had closer contact than most. I was in historic Fraunces Tavern in the financial district, having lunch, on the winter’s day in 1975 when a bomb ripped through it, killing four people and injuring 44. On 9/11, I was minding my two young children when the Twin Towers ten blocks away turned to rubble. We weren’t harmed, but the fallout -- air poisoned, schools shuttered, sleep invaded -- wasn’t pretty.

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So I should have extra cause to be thankful that the Times Square car bomb fizzled last Saturday evening, and grateful for the energetic police work that pulled the suspected perpetrator off a plane for Dubai Monday night. And I am. But as a longtime campaigner for public space and livable streets, I worry about the political and social consequences of this latest scare. From the look of things so far, these won’t be pretty, either.

For starters, the botched bombing makes it extremely unlikely that the NYPD will ever be called to account for its shameful Earth Day confiscation of bicycles chained to racks and fences along the presidential motorcade route on Houston Street. While this may seem small in the grand scheme of things, some cycling advocates had been nursing hopes that this gratuitous act might be the lever to finally pry open the department’s sorry record of indifference and hostility toward cyclists.

Indeed, throughout the unending Giuliani-Bloomberg era, it has been nearly impossible to get elected officials and the media to question any exercise of police power, short of overt violence or profiling. Even so, two veteran journalists told me last week that they were looking into the Houston Street incident, and one City Council member, public safety committee chair Peter Vallone, addressed some tough questions about it to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Now, however, with politicians and the press falling over each other to congratulate the cops, the chances of a meaningful probe appear nil.

Since 9/11, each attempted attack, no matter how clumsy, has precipitated some new disturbing intrusion into the public’s sphere of free movement. As the week began, the Supreme Court announced that, due to “security concerns,” visitors would no longer be allowed to enter via the court’s front door, through the imposing marble columns and under the totemic words “Equal Justice Under Law.” While the timing was coincidental, the announcement was another step toward sacrificing the American public square, with its cherished rites and freedoms, on the altar of security.

Inevitably, then, the Times Square incident will influence how officialdom prioritizes the dangers society faces -- a process in which the decks have always been stacked against livable streets.

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LIRR’s Brooklyn Bunker: More Extreme Than NYPD Counterterror Guidelines

Atlantic Terminal9_1.jpgSecurity barriers mar the Atlantic Terminal sidewalk. Image: Noah Kazis.

Brooklyn's new Long Island Rail Road terminal opened earlier this month to generally positive reviews for its airy interior. Outside the station? That's an entirely different matter.

The Brooklyn Paper called the "sarcophagus-sized slabs of stone" on the sidewalk -- which nearly come up to one's neck -- "a grotesque eyesore." City Council Member Letitia James agreed, telling Gothamist, "This is a facility that is supposed to celebrate openness, yet they put hideous barricades in front of it."

The barriers weren't in the original renderings for the site, which architect John di Domenico hoped would become a "civic presence." They were added after the fact for security, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

We're still trying to figure out just who decided to go for total overkill here. Requests are in with di Domenico + Partners, the NYPD, the MTA, and the Department of Design and Construction. While we haven't pinpointed exactly where the order came from, the fortress mentality on display exceeds even the NYPD counterterrorism division's own guidelines.

We did get to sift through the NYPD's 2009 report, Engineering Security: Protective Design For High Risk Buildings. As a major transit hub, the Atlantic Terminal falls under the NYPD counterterrorism division's "High Tier" category, for which they prescribe additional security measures. Those measures include "perimeter security," which the NYPD justifies like so: "The best way to minimize the impact of an attack is to keep the threat away from a building."

The NYPD also puts forward some basic guidelines about just how much protection they think is necessary. That's where the real surprise is. Here's what the city's counterterrorism experts recommend:

With respect to bollards, the NYPD recommends four feet of clear spacing, bollard sleeve to bollard sleeve. In general, New York City recommends that bollards measure between 30 and 36 inches in height.

And here's how the Atlantic Terminal sarcophagi measure up, based on an informal analysis conducted by Streetsblog today. The barriers loom a full foot higher than NYPD's own recommendations:

Height.jpgImage: Noah Kazis.
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Does Times Real Estate VP’s “Joke” Betray Anti-Bike Bias?

In December, Streetsblog reported on the lack of bicycle parking in the new New York Times Building, despite promises to bike-commuting staff that there would be space inside. We talked to several Times employees who said that after initially being allowed to bring their bikes in, they were suddenly denied entry.

A months-long standoff of sorts ensued, until building management finally opened a storage area big enough to hold 20 bikes, with spaces reserved by permit (the building is 1.5 million square feet). The hostility Times' cycling employees have encountered since moving into the Renzo Piano-designed, Forest City Ratner-built "green" tower has caused some to stop riding to work.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White sent a letter to Times Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., urging him to install adequate bike parking. Here is the response, from Hussain Ali-Khan, VP of Real Estate Development for the NYT.

Dear Mr. White,

Mr. Sulzberger has forwarded me your letter regarding bicycle parking in The New York Times Building. I am happy to say The New York Times Building incorporates many green technologies including bicycle parking!

The Real Estate Development team and the Building Operations department worked with our development partner and co-owner, Forest City Ratner Companies, and with bicycle riding employees to identify a suitable location for secure indoor parking. This was accomplished in December. The delay between moving in and setting up the bicycle parking was mostly due to logistics as we had significant construction activity in the building for several months after the Times moved in and we wanted to evaluate a couple of ideas after contractors and construction materials had been moved out. The reports you received were premature or ill informed and employees need only indicate their need to the security officers to be shown how to access the bike parking area.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding regarding bicycle parking at The New York Times Building. Good luck with your mission to rid the planet of cars!

Kidding! But not really. 

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Disgruntled Drivers Responsible for UK Letter Bombs?

A letter bomb exploded yesterday at the offices of the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea, South Wales, injuring a woman. It was the seventh such incident reported at a UK agency linked to traffic enforcement in the past three weeks, and the third in three days, according to an article in the Guardian. A total of six people have been injured so far, according to a statement issued just yesterday by police. 

Today's blast reinforced growing fears that a disgruntled driver, or someone else with a grudge against motoring enforcement bodies, had launched a concerted letter bombing campaign.

The DVLA attack followed an explosion yesterday at a company linked to speed cameras and another on Monday at the London offices of Capita, the firm that collects the capital's congestion charge.

Drivers angered by speed-monitoring cameras, some of whom refer to police vehicles carrying speed-detection devices as "the Talivan," have engaged in acts of sabotage in the past. The UK police have labeled such criminals as terrorists.

camerapop.jpgA  leader of one of the main militant groups opposed to speed monitoring and congestion pricing, Motorists Against Detection, denied that his group was involved in the letter bomb campaign. "We're not responsible for these attacks and do not condone causing injury," said the man, who goes by the name "Captain Gatso." "However, there is a war against motorists and it seems this is an act of retaliation." His group's site features several photos of speed cameras that have been blown up, with approving captions. Another like-minded site, Roadracers, sports this photo of what appears to be a camera being detonated with pedestrians in the background. It's not clear where or when the photo was taken, or whether it is genuine.

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Parochial Thinking Amid Ominous Signs

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The Committee to Keep NYC "Congestion Tax Free." Front row, left to right: John Corlett, Automobile Club of New York; Ray Irrera, Queens Chamber of Commerce; Council Member David Weprin; Lobbyist Walter McCaffrey; Joe Conley of Queens Community Board 2.

Ominous warnings relating to energy consumption have come recently from people on both ends of the political spectrum. The free-marketeers at the Council on Foreign Relations have issued a report warning that the United States cannot possibly kick its dependence on foreign energy and recommending drastic actions such as -- ready? -- gasoline rationing. Even more alarming, if also hopefully more far-fetched, a Russian who observed the collapse of the Soviet Union first hand, and still has an occasional kind word for communism sees disturbing parallels between that country before it fell and our country today.

Taken together, these writings describe a nation that needs to cut energy consumption now, which implications for urgently needed action at the national, state, local and individual levels. Amid these increasingly ominous signs, here in New York City, serious consideration of the single action that would offer the greatest reduction in local energy consumption for the least amount of work -- congestion pricing -- is nowhere because parochial local politicians are failing to think three feet beyond the borders of their districts. (I'm looking at you, David Weprin.)

First, via the Oil Drum, we learn that the Council on Foreign Relations has issued a pdf-formatted report that sounds an urgent tone about the security implications of the United States's dependence on energy imported from foreign, often hostile nations.

Council. On. Foreign. Relations. 

This is the illuminati speaking: A powerful group that has enormous influence, for better or for worse, on U.S. international policy. As a task force of 27 influentials frets that the global market on which oil is traded may not function properly in the future, it presents this chilling thesis: 

U.S. energy policy has been plagued by myths, such as the feasibility of achieving "energy independence" through increased drilling or anything else. For the next few decades, the challenge facing the United States is to become better equipped to manage its dependencies rather than pursue the chimera of independence.

Two concurring authors of the report issue a more dire statement in a concurring opinion: Our dependence on oil has:

Enriched and emboldened Iran, enabled President Vladimir Putin to undermine Russia's democracy, entrenched regressive autocrats in Africa, forestalled action against genocide in Sudan, and facilitated Venezuala's campaign against free trade in the Americas. Most gravely, oil consumers are in effect financing both sides of the war on terrorism. Transformation in the use of energy, especially in transportation where oil is unrivaled ... is essential.

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NYC Finally Cracking Down on Security Barriers

Security5.jpg In the aftermath of September 11th, concrete and steel barriers sprouted like  mushrooms around big buildings in New York City. It almost seemed to me to be a kind of status symbol. You knew you worked in an important building if your landlord had hardened it against truck bombs.

The barriers were often ugly and almost always stole vast tracts of sidewalk space from the public. Meanwhile, their security benefit was usually questionable. While annexing public space from the city's pedestrians the bollards did absolutely nothing to prevent a rental truck filled with explosives from rolling freely into Midtown (a camera-based congestion charging system like London's might help with that, however).

Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association raised the issue here on Streetsblog in July with his short photo series of sidewalk-blocking bollards (here and here). He also wrote an excellent essay, Bombs, Barriers and Bollards for the RPA's Spotlight on the Region newsletter.

Five years after September 11th, the City has responded. Saturday's New York Times reports:

After evaluations by the New York Police Department, the city's Department of Transportation has demanded that many of the planters and concrete traffic medians known as jersey barriers be taken away. So far, barriers have been removed at 30 buildings out of an estimated 50 to 70 in the city.

Officials found that the barriers obstructed pedestrian flow and, in the case of planters, often ended up being used as giant ashtrays. Counterterrorism experts also concluded that in terms of safety, some of the barriers, which building owners put in of their own accord, might do more harm than good.

"Wherever possible, we want to avoid the appearance that the city is under siege or unwelcoming," Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner said in an e-mail message.

Photo: Jeff Zupan. 

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Travel Tips for the Plutocracy

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Jeff Marshall avoids onerous airport security by commuting in his own Soviet fighter jet.

While Thomas Frank argues on today's New York Times' op/ed page that America's current "orgy of plunder and predation" is a mirror image of 19th century political corruption, the business section offers a fantastic package of travel tips for the frequent fliers that 1896 presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan would surely have called the "Plutocracy." 

First, consider venture capitalist Jeff Marshall's "unusual mode of transportation."

Mr. Marshall owns and flies a Soviet L-39 attack fighter jet, which burns through nearly 200 gallons of fuel per hour while in the air. Mr. Marshall, who works in Stamford, Conn., uses the jet to take family trips on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and Vermont, but has also used it to commute two days a week to Boston, "blowing past stalled traffic on Interstate 95 below," according to the Time.

Marc_Juris_Plutocrat.jpgBut how to make sure you don't look rumpled after squeezing yourself out of the cockpit? Court TV's Marc Juris has some tips:

Often, on longer business trips, I send all of my bags by FedEx. That way, I have clean, pressed clothes waiting at my destination. And when it comes to my carry-on suitcase, I make sure it's always stocked with clean clothes. I'll even ship a duplicate bag with easy-to-replace but bulky items like running shoes and toiletries to my hotel. When I'm done with one, I just leave it at the hotel and take the bag with clean items to my next stop. No point carrying around a lot of dirty laundry.

For those who can not yet afford their own jet fighter but don't want their bottle of Evian seized by security, there is always the flight-by-hour option:

Last week's disruptions gave a sharp boost to a smaller but fast-growing segment of the private jet market — a niche for customers who purchase time cards that allow them to fly a certain model of jet by the hour. Jet cards often sell in hourly rates ranging from around $4,000 for five-seat light jets to $9,800 an hour for 10-seat heavier jets, which can fly across the Atlantic nonstop.

And for commercial fliers it seems "Business Class" will soon mean a separate plane, not just a separate section:

Once it begins service, Silverjet will be the third all-business-class airline to begin service in the last year or so on the lucrative New York-London route. The trans-Atlantic market, Mr. Hunt said over breakfast recently, is ready to be shaken up because business and leisure travelers feel they have been shaken down by established airlines. "The business and leisure consumer flying in business class is being ripped off because they're paying 10 times what they would pay in coach class," he said.

Meanwhile, back in coach...

Flight attendants, whose profession was once considered glamorous, may have one of the toughest jobs in the airline industry these days. Planes are packed fuller than they have been in decades, there are fewer perks to provide comfort and distraction for passengers, and flight attendants have seen their pay and benefits cut at many airlines. And now travelers are increasingly confused and agitated about the new restrictions and the long lines to get through security.

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Protecting Public Space by Banishing People

Here is the latest in Jeff Zupan's photo series on security barricades and their effect on New York City street life:

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Penned-in pedestrians on Wall Street across from the New York Stock Exchange
(Photo: Jeff Zupan)

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Sidewalk Security on Madison Avenue

In his spare time, StreetsBlog's new contributor, Jeff Zupan from the Regional Plan Association is roaming Manhattan snapping photos of security barricades and their impact on the city's street life. It's a big honor to have Jeff publishing here.

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Concrete barricades protecting a concrete barricade. Madison Avenue in the upper 40's. (Photo: Jeff Zupan)