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Thread: Streets (Near Wall St.) Belong to the People

  1. #1

    Default Streets (Near Wall St.) Belong to the People

    April 1, 2004

    Streets (Near Wall St.) Belong to the People

    AT the present time, a private police force controls the public streets in the vicinity of the New York Stock Exchange," Justice Walter B. Tolub of State Supreme Court wrote last month.

    "The specter of private police forces patrolling public streets is unacceptable," he concluded, "and private entities may not take the law into their own hands, no matter how well intentioned."

    Most New Yorkers may be too inured to the proliferation of checkpoints, or too concerned about the prospect of new attacks, to take issue with the fact that vehicles in an eight-block area downtown come and go at the discretion of the Stock Exchange. Or they may have assumed that the roadblocks are operated by the Police Department.

    But it turns out that the blockades, though begun by the police after the 2001 attack, have since passed into the hands of the exchange without any evident formalities. While no one wants a security policy that proves too lax, it seems reasonable to ask how decisions are being made that - in the name of security - diminish the public sphere.

    The blockades create what Deputy Chief John Colgan of the police counterterrorism bureau calls the "minimum acceptable standoff to defend against vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices." They were set up at Broadway and Wall Street, Broadway and Exchange Place, New and Beaver Streets, Nassau and Pine Streets, Broad and Beaver Streets, William and Wall Streets and William Street and Exchange Place.

    At the Broadway intersections, retractable posts called bollards are now being installed as part of an overall streetscape improvement financed largely by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Another blockade has been supplanted by a concrete barrier.

    The blockades consist of two pickup trucks, laden with sand, parked diagonally or perpendicular to the roadway. At the entry checkpoints, one truck pulls aside to admit a vehicle. The second truck will not pull aside until the vehicle has been inspected by a private security guard and an explosive-sniffing dog.

    "There's no probable cause to stop anybody and conduct a search on public streets," said Stephen F. Harmon of Jenkens & Gilchrist Parker Chapin, the lawyers for Joseph Vassallo, who sued the exchange. Mr. Vassallo asserts that the blockades and more recent street work have effectively ruined his parking garage business on Exchange Place.

    Leonard Grunstein, another lawyer for Mr. Vassallo, said: "Streets are inalienable. You can't give them away. And if you do, it's the City Council that decides. And even the City Council's rights are circumscribed."

    So who said that the Stock Exchange could control the streets around it?

    That was what Justice Tolub asked one of the exchange's lawyers, Douglas W. Henkin of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, at a hearing last month.

    "What has happened is not that the N.Y.S.E. has closed off those streets," Mr. Henkin said, according to the transcript, "but the N.Y.S.E. has manned those closures at the behest of the N.Y.P.D., following their initial closures by the N.Y.P.D."

    "So, you have an official request from the N.Y.P.D. asking you to man those posts?" Justice Tolub asked.

    "You mean in writing?" Mr. Henkin replied. "No."

    On March 12, Justice Tolub enjoined the exchange from maintaining the blockades, saying, "No formal authority appears to have been given to the N.Y.S.E. to maintain these blockades and/or conduct security searches at these checkpoints."

    That order was quickly stayed by Justice Richard T. Andrias of the Appellate Division until arguments can be heard in June. The exchange plans to file its brief next week, said Ray Pellecchia, a spokesman. Otherwise, he said, "As a matter of policy, we don't comment on pending litigation."

    NONE of this is to imply that the Police Department opposes the blockades. Quite the contrary, it regards them as essential, according to an affidavit from Chief Colgan in support of the exchange.

    Chief Colgan described the Stock Exchange as a "highly attractive target of opportunity" and said that a successful attack "would produce catastrophic, cascading impact with devastating consequences to public safety and economic interests."

    "Experience and research demonstrate that terrorists avoid 'hardened' targets, which are targets that have been reinforced with barriers and other deterrents," he wrote.

    Chief Colgan concluded: "It is critical to the continued security of the N.Y.S.E. and the surrounding area that the checkpoints currently in place be maintained. If the N.Y.S.E. is enjoined from maintaining any of the above-referenced security checkpoints, the N.Y.P.D. will need to staff these checkpoints with its own personnel."

    When the exchange's lawyer reminded Justice Tolub of the need for security measures, the transcript reports the judge saying: "I agree 100 percent in that regard. O.K.? That having been said, I still can't find a legal authority for a private entity to hire its own vigilante group to block a street."

    Later, Mr. Henkin said, "The issue, though, your Honor, is they're doing it at the behest of the police, not as a vigilante organization with no oversight."

    But the document saying so has yet to appear.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default

    Who's providitatin' the securitation for the NYSE, Bo Deedle and Associates?

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