There certainly is no one in New York City who needed the events in Paris last week to remind them that the world, especially the world within big international cities, remains a very dangerous place. Whereas many European and Asian cities have had numerous devastating terrorist attacks over the past decade, New York since 9/11 has not.
This is no small part due to the efforts of the NYPD and policies that allowed for heightened surveillance that are no longer in force. In fact, regardless of the rhetoric to the contrary, changes in policies as well as fewer police being available for anti-terrorist activities have increased the risk of a successful attack on our city. And we continue to slide in the wrong direction.
Early on in the administration of Mayor de Blasio, changes were made that reduced surveillance, and undercover efforts in locations and with groups that had been identified by law enforcement on a local as well as federal level to present or harbor possible threats.
At the same time, the overall number of police assigned to anti-terrorist activities was reduced in favor of reassignments to help fight an increase in crime in venues such as housing projects. With the Ferguson and Garner decisions, the resulting and ongoing protests further depleted the number of officers assigned to anti-terrorist activities.
It seems that keeping a once large and robust anti-terrorist-focused element in the NYPD has become a lesser priority. This is not to suggest that some of the new focus is not important, but at the same time the threat to New York City by terrorist is far from having become equally reduced.
This — combined with the change in surveillance policies and the city’s desire to use enormous numbers of police to “monitor” protestors who are essentially given free rein of the city — I believe leaves our city more vulnerable.
The obvious solutions are the employing of more police, restoring a number of activities that a responsible person would conclude gave law enforcement the ability to protect us better, and better containment of the protestors.
These protestors, of course, have every right to express their free speech, but the city’s lack of any enforced rules regarding these demonstrations results in the need for enormous numbers of police to be assigned literally to shadow their movements.
The New York State Senate is planning hearings around the state starting in late January in New York City on the general question of public safety. The hearings are unusual in as much as they are being conducted jointly by four standing committees of the Senate. The Committees are Codes, Crime and Corrections, Investigations and Civil Service which is chaired by State Senator Marty Golden whom I serve as Chief of Staff.
Maybe these hearings will help us better understand what the city is thinking in terms of policing for the future. And maybe the city will learn from the questioning and testimony that possibly some of its decisions deserve to reviewed and reconsidered.
Congratulations to Joan Byrnes, formerly of State Senator Marty Golden’s staff, who joined the administrative staff of the Department of Sanitation’s recycling program this past week and who more importantly got engaged over the holidays. Good luck and congratulations to Joanie whom I had the pleasure of working alongside for many years.
And an equal shout out to Georgea Kontzamanis, who has worked for the NYS Senate majority assigned to Senator Golden, who will be joining the executive staff of the New York City Board of Elections. As much as she will be a loss to Senator Golden and his office, this is a great move by the Board of Elections which continues to improve its operations. Good luck and best wishes to Georgea!