By Ben Fractenberg
MANHATTAN — An increase in reports of suspicious packages, vehicles and even plane passengers in the city since Faisal Shahzad’s botched car bomb attempt on Saturday shows how cautious New Yorkers remain in the wake of the failed attack.
The increase in reports of suspicious activity is as high as 29 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal, but NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a press conference Friday he could not specify the exact percentage rise.
"I think to a certain extent people are becoming more suspicious, more vigilant and that results in more calls. We understand that's what happens and we're prepared to respond," Kelly said.
Times Square was evacuated Friday afternoon after a suspicious packages report, which turned out to be a cooler holding water bottles.
Elbaz said he watched police open the bag only to find some socks, pens and a toothbrush.
When asked if he had been scared by the Times Square incident Elbaz said, “Of course I was. That’s why I told the police."
Another suspicious package was reported Friday at the 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue subway line. The report came in around 11:30 a.m. and F trains were briefly rerouted over the V line into Queens, according to a NYC Transit spokesperson.
Police determined the package was harmless.
On Thursday around 9:30 a.m., an MTA worker alerted the NYPD after seeing a suspicious package at the N-Q-R-W subway station at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue. Approximately 10 officers arrived and searched the station for about an hour before determining it was a false alarm.
The fire department also showed up at the scene, which one FDNY worker said was unusual for a situation where the police had not found anything suspicious.
Tourist Carlos Mesa seemed unfazed by the police presence as he walked by the 57th Street station with his wife.
“After what happened on 9/11 and then again last weekend, it’s good the police are being cautious,” said Mesa, 37, who is visiting New York from Miami for the first time. “Maybe in 2003 I would have been nervous, but not now.”
Also on Thursday, an Emirates plane was stopped at JFK Airport and two passengers were removed by federal authorities after concerns their names were on a “no fly” list.
Flight 204 to Dubai was ordered back to the gate around noon by federal authorities. The flight was stopped for almost two hours before the passengers were allowed back on the plane and it was cleared for takeoff.
In yet another Thursday scare, someone on a Greyhound bus headed for New York City reported a bomb threat to 911, causing police and fire officials to evacuate several blocks, including a Hilton hotel, in Portsmouth, N.H.
The New Hampshire state police explosives-disposal unit and the FBI responded to the call. As of Thursday afternoon, they were still investigating the vehicle, which was carrying fewer than 20 people from Bangor, Maine, to the city.
On Wednesday night, an abandoned U-Haul truck caused a scare at the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge after witnesses reported the vehicle was leaking fuel.
The NYPD bomb squad closed the bridge — formerly known as the Triboro Bridge — in both directions around 10:15 p.m. before deciding there was no threat and allowing traffic back through shortly after midnight.
Police were still searching for a man on Thursday morning seen running from the van by a Bridge and Tunnel Authority officer.
Earlier this week, the NYPD swarmed Times Square after reports of a suspicious package near 47th Street and Seventh Avenue. Again, it turned out to be a false alarm.
“I appreciate that people are paying attention, but the ‘see something, say something’ slogan has been around forever — it’s all over the subways,” said Harlem resident Jen Bradford, 31, who was standing in front of Blue Fin restaurant at 47th and Broadway while police searched Times Square following the report.
“If people are now just becoming vigilant, it speaks to their lack of vigilance before that.”