LOWER MANHATTAN — Taxi drivers joined Downtown residents Wednesday in opposing a stringent new security plan which would put much of the area around the World Trade Center on lock down.
At a public hearing on the proposal Wednesday afternoon, several taxi drivers spoke out against the NYPD's plan to secure Lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center starting as soon as the end of next year.
By 2019, the NYPD plans to screen all vehicles between Church, West, Liberty and Barclay streets to protect the new World Trade Center towers.
Mohan Singh, 56, a Queens resident who drives a taxi, told NYPD officials that it is already difficult to navigate Lower Manhattan because of the many security checkpoints.
"If [the security] takes too much time, we lose the time for our business," he said.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, also worried that the inconvenience of the new security measures could cut into taxi drivers' earnings, which she said are often already below minimum wage.
"This could be really devastating for taxi drivers," Desai said. "This will greatly impact our ability to earn that hard-earned living."
Desai and Singh spoke at the public hearing at the Department of City Planning, where NYPD officials described the plans to restrict vehicles in and around the World Trade Center in an effort to prevent a truck or car bombing.
Several Downtown residents also testified, reiterating the concerns they raised at a meeting earlier this week about how the new checkpoints would affect their neighborhood.
"We do not want to live in a fortress," said Mary Perillo, who has lived on Cedar St. for 29 years and would now be in the NYPD's secure zone.
Perillo and her neighbors said there are many aging residents on their block who would have trouble getting cabs and having their groceries delivered under the city's plan.
Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1, said she fears that overly invasive security measures could negatively impact a community still recovering from 9/11.
"We are not questioning the need for security," Menin said. "We are asking that the security measures be implemented in a way that recognizes Downtown residents and businesses."
Menin asked that the NYPD create a Citizens Advisory Committee to allow locals to voice their views on the plans as they are put into place. The community board also submitted 19 specific requests to the NYPD, asking the police to consider everything from air pollution to baby strollers.
The NYPD will use the public comments to create a Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the fall and will hold another hearing then, before finalizing the Environmental Impact Statement by early next year.
The city will begin phasing in the security measures at the end of 2013 and will finish implementing them by 2019, when most of the World Trade Center complex is scheduled to be complete.
The NYPD is accepting written comments through March 26. Comments can be submitted to Lieutenant David Kelly, One Police Plaza, NY, NY, 10038, 646-610-4557, firstname.lastname@example.org.