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October 12, 2007

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

Newark will shut streets near arena

The Newark Star-Ledger
By Jeffery C. Mays and Jonathan Schuppe

This one goes into the are-u-effin-kidding-me file.

For a couple of years Atlantic Yards critics have questioned the wisdom of locating a glass and steel skyscraper, atrium and arena at one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, over a transit hub that was already the target of a foiled terrorist attack.

Apparently no one was thinking that hard in New Jersey:

PruCenterArena.jpg

With two towering glass entranceways, a high-definition scoreboard and a massive video screen visible from Manhattan, the Prudential Center in downtown Newark boasts all the features of a state-of-the-art arena.

Except for one thing: it was built too close to the street.

City officials said yesterday that the arena, due to open Oct. 25, isn't far enough from traffic to protect it from a potential terrorist attack.

To make up for the shortcoming, Newark will outfit surrounding streets with concrete barriers to keep cars and trucks from the entrance at the corner of Edison Place and Mulberry Street.

"You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world," Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy said. "So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

He added, "It will be safe on opening day."

McCarthy and Mayor Cory Booker, who took office last year long after construction began, declined to comment on who was to blame for the apparent oversight.

As far as he could tell, McCarthy said, a homeland security survey was never done for the site.

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The story was also carried by the AP (via, WCBS880.com).

NoLandGrab: Seriously, Bruce Ratner claims to have commissioned a security and terrorism threat assessment, only it's top secret (maybe even double-secret). Maybe the evil geniuses at Forest City Ratner and the NYC Dept. of Transportation are sitting on a plan to close the intersection at Atlantic and Flatbush on game days and sell it to the public as a "traffic-calming measure."

UPDATE, 11/25/07: THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE ONLINE. THE COMPLETE ARTICLE APPEARS BELOW AND IS BEING PROVIDED FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES AS ALLOWED UNDER SECTION 107 OF THE US COPYRIGHT LAW.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
Newark will shut streets near arena
Thursday, October 11, 2007
BY JEFFERY C. MAYS AND JONATHAN SCHUPPE
Star-Ledger Staff

With two towering glass entranceways, a high-definition scoreboard and a massive video screen visible from Manhattan, the Prudential Center in downtown Newark boasts all the features of a state-of-the-art arena.

Except for one thing: it was built too close to the street.

City officials said yesterday that the arena, due to open Oct. 25, isn't far enough from traffic to protect it from a potential terrorist attack.

To make up for the shortcom ing, Newark will outfit surrounding streets with concrete barriers to keep cars and trucks from the entrance at the corner of Edison Place and Mulberry Street.

"You can't construct an arena and put it right against a street in a post 9/11 world," Newark Police Di rector Garry McCarthy said. "So we're playing catch-up and taking measures to make sure it's safe."

He added, "It will be safe on opening day."

McCarthy and Mayor Cory Booker, who took office last year long after construction began, declined to comment on who was to blame for the apparent oversight.

As far as he could tell, McCar thy said, a homeland security sur vey was never done for the site.

A terrorist threat to downtown Newark is no abstract concept. In 2004, homeland security officials revealed they had intelligence that potential terrorists had cased Prudential Financial's downtown headquarters. Permanent barriers were installed around the building.

The Prudential Center is the largest development project in Newark history, costing $375 million -- with most of the money coming from taxpayers.

Devils owner Jeffrey Vander beek said the building will be the "safest arena in the country."

"There have been constant assessments," Vanderbeek said. "This is a state of the art security system with all the bells and whistles. Anything security-wise is state of the art."

Prudential Center Security Di rector Leslie G.Wiser Jr., the former special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark Division, said he has conducted constant threat assessments since he was hired in February.

"I do a threat assessment on this building every day," Wiser said. "From the moment I arrived I began that process. I have looked at threats, the means by which they can be delivered, I looked at the potential target and I have worked hand-in-hand with police director McCarthy to mitigate the risks."

One result of the assessment is the decision to close portions of Edison Place. Discussions about closing that street -- and, possibly, a portion of Mulberry Street -- on event nights have been going on since at least the early summer.

"This isn't a last-minute thing on our part. We have gone over this with a number of stakeholders," Wiser said.

The security issue came to light yesterday morning, during a special meeting called by the city council to address fears that closing Edison Place would hurt nearby businesses. McCarthy said the city needed to close the street during events to protect the arena from the threat of a truck bomb, but drivers will be allowed to use Edison Place to enter a privately owned parking lot.

Several council members said afterward that they were troubled by the news.

"They are working on it but they started late," said Councilman Oscar S. James II. "The arena is opening in two weeks and I want to make sure we have a plan and people know what it is,"

Said Councilman Carlos Gon zales: "It was a surprise to hear, especially given the environment that we are in. With an investment of that magnitude and having 18,000 people in one place at one time, you have to take precautions."

Richard Monteilh, the business administrator under former Mayor Sharpe James who was the lead negotiator on the arena, said there has always been talk of closing the streets around the arena during events.

"The heightened time to protect the building is when its filled with people. Its an urban facility. You are not going to have a moat around it," he said. Monteilh said that the city's homeland security director and police were involved in security planning regarding the arena.

"We didn't want a siege mentality," he said. "The FBI building (in Newark) sits in a bomb shelter with closed-off streets that drove off life at the waterfront."

McCarthy said in an interview he first noticed the problem several months ago, when he toured the arena while it was still under construction. The so-called "standoff" -- the distance between the building and a poten tial terrorist threat -- was not sufficient on Edison and Mul berry. So he, Vanderbeek and Wiser started devising a plan to keep traffic away, he said.

They agreed to install concrete "Jersey barriers," like ones used as highway dividers, in both streets during arena events.

McCarthy said he is no longer concerned with the arena's safety, and neither should the public.

"Whatever steps were not taken in the past are being taken now," he said.

Staff writer Ian Shearn contributed to this report.

Posted by lumi at October 12, 2007 6:37 AM