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Pope Visit, U.N. Will Give NYC 'Largest Security Challenge,' Bratton Says

By Jeff Mays | September 14, 2015 7:39pm
 The pope's  visit next week , combined with the United Nations General Assembly  occurring at the same time, will present the "largest security challenge" in New York City history, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Monday.
Pope Visit, U.N. Meeting Will Give New York 'Largest Security Challenge'
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NEW YORK CITY—The pope's visit next week, combined with the United Nations General Assembly occurring at the same time, will present the "largest security challenge" in New York City history, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday.

Bratton said that in addition to the visit of Pope Francis from Sept. 24-25, approximately 170 heads of state, representing 90 percent of the world's leaders, will be in town at the same time for the General Assembly.

"We believe that this event is going to be the largest security challenge that the department and the city have ever faced," said Bratton during a press conference outside One Police Plaza.

To top things off, President Barack Obama will also visit the city during the General Assembly, and Beyonce, Coldplay and others will give a free concert at Central Park on Sept. 26 expected to draw more than 100,000 people.

"We describe ourselves as the center of the universe," said Bratton.

The Secret Service is the lead agency coordinating 50 other agencies in what has been deemed a national security event, said Robert Sica, head of the agency's New York office.

Diego Rodriguez, head of the FBI's New York field office, said he expected the General Assembly to be one of the most well attended ever.

Earlier on Monday, dozens of agencies participated in joint operation exercises at police headquarters.

"New York City is actually a place that can balance all of that together and make it work," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

During his two-day visit to the city and his first to the United States, the pope will address the refugee crisis before the General Assembly. He will also visit Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem and attend a "multi-religious" service at the 9/11 Memorial.

Pope Francis will attend a procession and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden and say evening prayer at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The pope will also make stops in Washington, D.C. to meet with Obama and visit Philadelphia during his trip to the United States from Sept. 23-27.

Bratton said there were "no credible threats" related to the pope's visit. Nevertheless, the agencies will deploy radiation, chemical and biological agent detectors to search out any threats.

Asked if they knew if the pope planned to take public transportation while in the city, Sica said "we hope not." Pope Francis is known for interacting with the masses at his events.

While the goal is to keep high profile security targets in a bubble, "This pope has made it quite clear as he travels around the world that that's not what he does," said Bratton.

De Blasio said that the police will be able to handle the high level of security while also maintaining a police presence in neighborhoods throughout the city.

"While all this unprecedented effort is underway, New Yorkers can be assured that the usual level of safety we achieve in the city and the extraordinary efforts made every day to keep New Yorkers safe in every neighborhood will continue at the same time," said de Blasio.