Suspicious Package Calls Way Up After Chelsea Bombing, Police Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Parts of the Major Deegan Expressway were shut down for about an hour Wednesday evening due to a pressure cooker on the road — in one of many instances of suspicious packages being reported since the Chelsea explosion this past weekend.

The Major Deegan was closed for about an hour in both directions between the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and Willis Avenue due to an investigation of a pressure cooker that was discovered under an overpass at 135th Street and Alexander Avenue continues.

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Police said there were no visible wires attached to the pressure cooker.

NYPD sources told CBS2 they believe it was a discarded pressure cooker and there is nothing to suggest it is anything but a discarded kitchen ware.

The expressway was closed around 6:20 p.m. and reopened about an hour later. CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported thousands were stuck in diverted traffic.

There closure brought northbound delays through Hunts Point Cross Bridge on the Bruckner and southbound delays begin at the George Washington Bridge.

Also Wednesday night, the NYPD confirmed they were investigating a suspicious package at the 40th Precinct at 135th Street and Bruckner Boulevard.

And in SoHo Wednesday evening, a section of Mercer Street at Grand Street was shut down as police investigated another suspicious package. Details were not immediately available.

Mercer Street Suspicious Package

A suspicious package shut down Mercer Street in SoHo on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Credit: ‏@ianwestcott, via Twitter)

Earlier Wednesday, the North Shore High School in Glen Head, Long Island was evacuated when a discarded pressure cooker was found in the trash.

A homemade explosive device crafted from a pressure cooker was found in a bag on West 27th Street following an explosion that rocked Chelsea on 23rd Street on Sept. 17. Another explosion disrupted a 5K marathon in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and a bag containing five pipe bombs was also found in Elizabeth, New Jersey over the weekend.

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As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, phones at One Police Plaza and at precincts throughout New York City have been ringing off the hook with calls about suspicious packages in the days since the Chelsea bombing.

“We need everybody in the city to pay attention at surroundings and if they see something that doesn’t look right to call 911 and we’ll respond,” said police Commissioner James O’Neill. “We’ve had hundreds of suspicious package jobs since Saturday night and that’s fine. I mean this is something we need to do. We need to make sure that we investigate everything.”

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When asked whether he would prefer the public to be more judicious about the calls, O’Neill said in effect that people should keep them coming.

The region has been on edge after the weekend terror blasts.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said resident should take comfort from the quick arrest and continuing vigilance.

“The American way of life was attacked and every day routines were shaken,” Bharara said.

As the feds prepare for bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami’s first court appearance, they’re looking for two men who were pictured on West 27th Street Saturday night in Chelsea.

Police believe they found the pressure cooker bomb Rahami left in a suitcase, removed it and took the luggage.

“They are witnesses, there are no criminal charges. They are not in any jeopardy of being arrested,” NYPD Chief James Waters said. “So if you can help us find them or anybody else can tell us who they are, we’d be very interested to speak with them.”

A circular burn mark was seen in the backyard of the home where Rahami allegedly blew up a device as part of a trial run on Thursday.

A congressman also released the bloody journal recovered from Rahami after the shootout with police. Entries praised al Qaeda, ISIS and warned “sounds of the bombs will be heard on the streets.”

Rahami’s wife was traveling in the Middle East when the bombing took place on Saturday.

CBS2 is told she checked with authorities and agreed to return to the U.S. and arrived in New York Wednesday night.

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She could help investigators better understand Rahami’s alleged path to radicalization.