NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — While there is no known specific and credible threat to New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said emergency units have been fully deployed by the NYPD following the deadly terror attacks at an airport and subway station in Brussels.
At a news conference late Tuesday afternoon, the mayor emphasized that he was pleased to see people carrying on their daily life.
“It’s good to see people going about their business; people going around the city knowing the NYPD has their back, and understanding how important it is never to let terrorists dominate us or influence us,” de Blasio said.
But while there is no threat, police have taken extra precautions. Within hours of the Belgium attacks, the NYPD fully deployed all of its emergency commands – including the Critical Response Command, an anti-terror force with more than 500 members.
“Every New Yorker should know you’re being protected every day by the finest police force in this country, and a police force that has really developed extraordinary ability to prevent terrorism and keep us safe,” de Blasio said.
The officers were deployed to landmarks and major transportation hubs.
“We are the number one terrorist target in this country and potentially in the world,” police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
The mayor earlier emphasized the need for the world to take a stand against terrorism — in Belgium as well as in other countries worldwide, including Turkey, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
“The community of nations has to stand together in moments like this and reject the forces of terror and the appalling violence that they reek upon innocent people,” de Blasio said during a press conference Tuesday. “We in New York City stand ready to fight against terror in every way.”
The NYPD immediately responded to the attacks in Belgium, not only activating its Critical and Strategic response unit, but also deploying additional counterterrorism teams to major landmarks, transit hubs, as well as other high-profile locations including the Belgian Consulate.
“This is something we think about every day,” Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said. “This was an all out effort that is part of the normal drum beat of trying to manage the threat stream in New York City.”
The NYPD said it was “closely” following the situation in Belgium with the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI.
“The NYPD and all our partners are keeping the people of this city safe,” de Blasio said. “What the terrorists want is for us to change our ways. The terrorists want to undermine our democracy, they want to undermine our values, they want to see us in panic. We refuse to be afraid, we refuse to change who we are. We are going to respond to their efforts to create chaos by showing them order, by showing our society functioning, our city functioning.”
Mayor de Blasio noted that New York bore the brunt of the War on Terror in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but since then, the NYPD has halted 20 plots against, or originating in, New York City.
The mayor also emphasized the responsibility of New Yorkers to remain vigilant. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority this week relaunched the “If you see something, say something” campaign that began after the 9/11 attacks.
“The phrase, ‘If you see something, say something’ – it means a lot, and you’re supposed to take it literally,” de Blasio said.
The mayor held his late afternoon news conference in Times Square, where there was a massive show of force through the day. The same was seen elsewhere in the city, and many were comforted by it, as CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
“I like the increased security,” said tourist Syndee Simpson. “It makes me feel like nothing bad will happen
“It’s still a little worrisome,” said tourist Lakshmi Karamsetty. “Because this did happen in Brussels and I’ve heard about the potential for a copy attacks.”
“I don’t know if people are taking it like more security, kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m kind of scared that they’re here,’ but I don’t see it like that I think it’s a good thing — I really do,” said tourist Chris Luna.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed National Guard members to John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, and assigned state troopers to Penn and Grand Central stations, as well as the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and George Washington Bridge. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also working with law enforcement to increase the police presence at subway and rail stations in the city, Westchester and Long Island.
“Public safety is paramount, and I want the people of this state to know that we are working with all local and federal partners, remaining vigilant and taking all necessary measures to keep New Yorkers safe,” Cuomo said.
The Port Authority Police Department also increased security at its three area airports — John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty — and bridges, tunnels and bus terminal. It placed high-visibility anti-terrorist patrols throughout the Port Authority Trans-Hudson system and the World Trade Center site. Additional bag checks also were being conducted at PATH stations as a precaution.
Amtrak is also deploying extra officers.
Commuters were also on high alert.
“Scary, there’s a lot of evil people around,” New Rochelle resident Kingsley Nurse told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “We really do need that extra presence of police around and security, it’s insane.”
“I think it’s almost impossible to protect against every individual who might want to do something terrible,” Lower Manhattan resident Denise Martin said.
“I’m staying away from the crowds, and I’m thinking that it’s a wonder to me that it hasn’t happened here,” a commuter at Penn Station told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
One man told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones he had mixed feelings about the tighter security at Penn Station.
“You know, in some ways it’s comforting. In other ways, it’s disconcerting, because it reflects on our safety and freedom,” he said.
But if anything, James Walker said the Brussels attacks are a reminder that it can happen anywhere.
“I think it’s just more of a reminder that we just kind of have to be vigilant about what’s going around us and be more aware of things,” he said.
At the Belgian Consulate, at 885 Second Ave. in Midtown East, Counsel General Marc Calcoen said he’s trying to personally field calls from anxious Belgians living in the U.S. who want to check up on their loved ones.
“It’s apparently quite difficult to get through because the telephone lines,” Calcoen told Diamond. “And also our own networks are saturated.
Cuomo called the attacks senseless and heartbreaking.
“These were acts of pure evil that have claimed the lives of people who were doing nothing more than going about their days,” Cuomo said. “My heart grieves for all those who have been impacted, and as we learn more about these attacks, New York will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the international community against terrorism – as the world has done for us in the past. And as we have seen time and again, when we are united, terror has never prevailed and never will.”
The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for the attacks, saying its extremists opened fire in the airport and “several of them” detonated suicide belts in response to Belgium’s support of the international coalition arrayed against it. The posting by the group’s news agency said another suicide attacker detonated in the metro.
The explosions happened just days after authorities arrested Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. After his arrest, Abdeslam told authorities he had created a new network and was planning new attacks.
Despite recent events, Calcoen said the attacks still come as a shock.
“As Belgians who are normally very quiet, laid back, out-of-the-way society, it’s something that we are not used to,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) issued a statement, calling the attacks “another demonstration of just how real and deadly Islamist terrorists truly are.”
“We must stand with Belgium and also do all we can to defend our nation from ISIS, Al Qaeda and all elements of Islamist terrorism,” he said. “This is a battle for civilization.”
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