MANHATTAN — Police Commissioner Ray Kelly accused the presumptive field of mayoral candidates of forgetting the lessons of 9/11 in a defensive radio interview Monday.
Speaking to Republican Rep. Peter King, who was filling in for WOR 710 host John Gambling, Kelly panned the 2013 candidates for raising alarms about the NYPD’s counter-terrorism efforts following news reports revealing extensive surveillance of Muslim communities.
“Their memories are very short,” Kelly said of the candidates, referencing the old adage that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
“They tend to forget. They live in the short term,” he said. “They forget that we’ve been subjected to 14 plots since 9/11.”
He pointed to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, whose 19th anniversary was commemorated Sunday.
“It should have been a huge wakeup call for us, but it wasn’t," he said. "And of course we paid the price on September 11th."
King, who has long raised flags about home-grown terrorism, said Muslims were “lucky” to have Kelly in charge and said he had deep concerns about what will happen to New York when Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves office at the end of his third term.
“I see some of the candidates running for mayor, and I wonder what kind of a city they want to create,” he said.
“Why people living in New York would want to stop the most effective counter-terrorism force is absolutely beyond me,” he added, accusing the news media of blowing the allegations out of proportion.
“To be accusing you of spying, is just… offensive,” he said. “It puts a cloud over what you’re trying to do.”
Kelly agreed that spying was "a pejorative term" and remained unapologetic in his defense of NYPD tactics, which he said are both legal and critical to keeping the world’s largest target safe.
“We cannot limit ourselves to the five boroughs of New York,” he said, noting that the London subway bombs were built in the Leeds, 200 miles north of the English capital, and that attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad had assembled his in Connecticut.
“It would be folly for us to focus only on the five boroughs of New York City,” he said.
He also blamed the campaign season for heightening criticism of other police tactics, like stop-and frisk, which has come under increased attack in recent weeks.
“You know pandering is going on," he said. "That’s the season that we’re entering now."
Several presumptive mayoral candidates have expressed concern about the NYPD's tactics following a series of reports from the Associated Press, including one that described officers trolling Muslim student associations' websites and even accompanying one group from City College on a whitewater rafting trip upstate.
A spokesman for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Monday commended the NYPD for "valiantly ris[ing] to the occasion, repeatedly protecting our city from terrorism," but said that, "In combating terrorism, as in fighting all crime, we must strike the right balance that allows the NYPD to keep us safe while protecting the civil liberties of all citizens."
"This is an extremely important and complicated issue that is more important than politics," the spokesman added.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Kelly's remarks.
But Kelly vowed not to let up guard.
“We’re going to continue to do, irrespective of what they say… what we believe has to be done to protect our city," he said.