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30 blocks closed for GOP bash
by repost
Friday Jun 25th, 2004 11:31 AM

Mike: 30 blocks closed for GOP bash

'The disruption will be a little bit annoying, but minimal'


Bomb dogs will screen subway trains for explosives. High-tech cameras will do the same with cars. And a small army of uniformed and plainclothes officers will roam partially or fully closed streets around Madison Square Garden.
Authorities believe those measures should secure the safety of President Bush and tens of thousands of other attendees at the Republican National Convention — yet not paralyze midtown Manhattan in gridlock.

On Friday, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly outlined a plan they claimed would minimize commuter headaches, while countering the potential threat of bombings and other terror attacks at the convention, set for Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

“The disruption will be a little bit annoying, but minimal,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. The transportation plan calls for one lane of avenues directly outside Madison Square Garden to remain open to motorists, except during the approximately 13 hours the convention will be in session.

It also imposes parking restrictions and reroutes bus service. Streets bordering the convention to the north and south would be closed for several blocks.

A restricted area around the arena will be controlled by checkpoints, where police will demand identification from anyone seeking entry. Cars entering the area, including those carrying delegates and dignitaries, will be screened for explosives and other contraband by devices that provide real-time video images of their undercarriages.

In addition, there will be a show of force from the 36,500-officer New York City Police Department, the nation’s largest. Between 6,000 to 10,000 officers have been assigned to patrol the streets and subways around the convention, including many who will have received training in how to handle chemical, biological or radiological attacks.

Officials have said that Penn Station, located directly below the arena, will remain open during the convention. They also plan to create a “pedestrian mall” leading to a main entrance of the station by closing 32nd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The transportation hub serves Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and the subway system.

Riders could face delays, but no shutdowns, officials said. “At this point, it appears it will be business as usual,” said Tom Kelly, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Lincoln Tunnel, just to the west of the convention site, and the city’s other tunnels and bridges will be heavily guarded, but open to usual traffic, authorities said.

Preliminary plans call for state and city police officers — armed with bomb-sniffing dogs and hand-held chemical detection devices — to board commuter and subway trains one stop before they reach Penn Station during the hours of the convention. The trains will be swept for suspicious packages and terror suspects before being allowed to continue into the station, officials said.

The Lincoln Tunnel, just to the west of the convention site, and the city’s other tunnels and bridges will be heavily guarded, but open to usual traffic, authorities said.

The traffic plan announced Friday also seeks to accommodate protesters by setting aside demonstration space at the southwest corner of the convention site, Bloomberg said.

“Our first concern is to make sure that everybody is safe and also to make sure that terrorism doesn’t strike here, and also that people who want to express themselves get the right to do so, but don’t infringe on the right of others,” he said.

The city said it expects an anti-war protest by United For Peace and Justice that could draw up to 250,000 people on the eve of the convention. The city is still negotiating with the group over a march route and rally location. A call to a spokesman for the group was not immediately returned.

Originally published on June 25, 2004

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