MANHATTAN — The NYPD and Port Authority have buried the hatchet — and not in each other's backs — in their long-running dispute over security at the World Trade Center.
New NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton went to the Port Authority for his first meeting with PA officials to start a new dialogue with counterparts there over the direction of security at the World Trade Center and other state facilities in the Big Apple, officials said.
The symbolism of the trek by Bratton from One Police Plaza to the Port Authority offices was not lost on participants, considering the high-handed, my-way-or-the-highway attitude of Bratton’s predecessor, Ray Kelly, during his 12 years atop the city’s police department.
"It is a new day," one official declared. "Now we are having conversations."
Another source explained, “There was a meeting being scheduled and Bratton called over to the Port Authority to say that he wanted to go over there.”
DNAinfo New York reported last October that the rift between the NYPD and the Port Authority was raging again over concerns that the NYPD’s security plans for the reconstructed World Trade Center site created a fortress-like environment that was discouraging business and traffic from returning to more normal levels.
The issues involved decisions by the NYPD to close the streets in and around the WTC, screening vehicles before allowing them onto Ground Zero acreage, and restricting most from entering unless they had demonstrable business purposes there. In addition, the NYPD plan called for the perimeter to be ringed with 3-foot-tall barriers, police guard booths and long sally ports where cars could be examined for explosives.
“The N.Y.P.D. has determined that the entire World Trade Center site is a potential target,” the department said in its principal impact statement. Even bicyclists would be required to dismount and walk through security zones.
The Port Authority approached Kelly to discuss easing restrictions and reducing the police footprint for a post 9/11 era, perhaps contracting with civilian screeners rather than using police, but the NYPD would hear nothing of it.
The NYPD was given the mandate to protect the site under a memorandum of understanding reached in 2008, which officials hoped would end years of squabbling between the agencies. But in 2011, Kelly announced the NYPD would pull nearly 700 officers for the WTC, and planned to house them eventually in a new downtown precinct.
With the WTC site coming back to life after a dozen years, a new approach was being proferred.
And since the “On The Inside” disclosure, a group representing Lower Manhattan residents filed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stranglehold on an area they described as being “as impervious to traffic as the Berlin Wall.”
Other public, and less attractive, signs of the deepening rift surfaced, including the afternoon when the NYPD parked an Emergency Services mobile command center next to a newly erected Port Authority police booth. The show of force was quickly countered with the arrival of a massive PA mobile command center, pitting giant police logos and egos nose-to-nose.
Frustrated by a lack of diplomacy, the Port Authority decided to wait to deal with Kelly's successor, who turned out to be the more approachable Bratton, to extend the olive branch.
"Let's just say, there's a decidedly better environment for discussion now," a Port Authority official said.