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NYPD and Port Authority Squabble Again Over World Trade Center Security

By Murray Weiss | October 30, 2013 7:01am
 A member of the NYPD's 'Hercules Team' moves pedestrians along near the One World Trade tower on April 16, 2013 in New York City.
A member of the NYPD's 'Hercules Team' moves pedestrians along near the One World Trade tower on April 16, 2013 in New York City.
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John Moore/Getty Images

LOWER MANHATTAN — The war over who controls security at Ground Zero is back on.

The NYPD and the Port Authority have squared off again over the amount of policing required at the redeveloped World Trade Center site and 9/11 memorial now that they have become popular destinations for residents, tourists and businesses, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The Port Authority has argued in meetings with the NYPD for a reduced police footprint, perhaps relying more on civilian employees of the PA or outside contractors to help screen visitors and delivery trucks to the site as opposed to police officers. 

Those suggestions, however, have been brushed aside by the NYPD's "my way or the highway" attitude, sources said.

The renewed sparring between the two agencies was discussed recently at a meeting of a tight-knit group of global security honchos called Bankers and Brokers. The group is composed of ex-FBI, Secret Service, CIA and NYPD officials who work for the country’s largest banks and Wall Street firms.

Their guest speaker was Joseph Dunne, the Port Authority's chief security officer. During his presentation, Dunne mentioned the Ground Zero security plans developed by the NYPD for the sprawling 16-acre site.

"Let's just say it is extremely difficult to work with them," said Dunne, who was First Deputy NYPD Commissioner when the Twin Towers were destroyed.

Dunne would not discuss WTC security when reached by "On the Inside," and said he would not confirm or deny anything he might have said at an event he believed was private and confidential.

But another PA official explained that "the security (at the WTC) is overwhelming and restrictive.”

“The original site had a campus police concept, but now there are public areas, city streets running through it and a memorial where people are being forced to stay on long lines snaking around the place," the official added.

Friction between the NYPD and Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center, is not new.

The NYPD wrested control over much of the World Trade Center security in 2008. That was codified in a memorandum of understanding that put the NYPD in charge, but guaranteed that the PAPD would control the PATH transit hub and take part in the site’s operations.

It was hoped the memorandum would end decades of conflict. Both agencies lost officers on 9/11 — 23 at the NYPD and 37 for the PAPD.

In 2011, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced the NYPD would pull together nearly 700 officers for the WTC, and planned to house them eventually in a new downtown precinct.

But Patrick Lynch, the police officers' union president, questioned the wisdom of expanding the NYPD presence at the WTC considering the shrinking force during the Bloomberg era.

“The problems caused by the systematic reduction of staffing of 7,000 police officers in the NYPD since 9/11 has been compounded by the need to staff up a counterterrorism bureau, which siphoned another 1,000 police officers from our local precincts,” Lynch said.

“A better question to ask is, 'Where will these police officers who will protect the WTC site come from?'”  Lynch asked, warning that they will be pulled from already under-manned patrols.

Meanwhile, Port Authority officials have taken a new tact in dealing with the NYPD.

They have decided to hang back until after the mayoral elections, hoping for more fruitful cooperation with the NYPD once a new administration takes over City Hall.