An Uproar Greets Decision to Trim New York Defense
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
New York politicians are in an uproar, vowing a fight with the federal Department of Homeland Security over its decision, announced yesterday, to slash $83 million in counterterrorism funding to New York City.
The federal government said it was increasing funding to Omaha, Neb., Orlando, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn. The news came a week after a radical Muslim was convicted in a Brooklyn federal court for plotting to bomb the subway station under Herald Square.
Rep. Peter King, a Republican of Long Island and the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that the cuts – a reduction of about 40% from New York City’s funding last year under this program – were “absolutely indefensible and disgraceful.”
“DHS and the Administration have declared war on New York City,” Mr. King said in a release. “This raises very serious questions about the quality and sincerity of management at every level of the Department.”
Senator Clinton, who did not mention the cuts in her acceptance speech at the state Democratic Convention in Buffalo, later said she would call for Senate hearings and press the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, for answers. Senator Schumer said in a statement, “Five years ago the Administration said they were with New York, but today they have let us down.”
The city’s slashed allocation was part of a total of $757 million in urban anti-terror grants distributed to 46 cities for the fiscal year 2006.The amount of money available to cities nationwide was down 14% from last year. The grants for New York City will drop to about $124.5 million from about $207.5 million.
The city grants were part of $1.7 billion in grants dispersed across 50 states, down about 30% from last year.
Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday that the city’s preparedness for a terrorist attack is not related to the amount of money it receives from the federal government. He said that the city equips itself with the tools it needs, and later seeks the maximum reimbursement from the federal grants.
Still, Mr. Bloomberg said the city should have received a lot more money and questioned the common sense of the allocation.
“When you stop a terrorist, they have a map of New York City in their pocket. They don’t have a map of any of the other 46 or 45 places,” he said at an unrelated press event in Brooklyn.
A senior congressional aide familiar with the grants said that part of New York City’s problem may have been that its grant application did not effectively justify how the funding would be used, and that the application may have fared poorly against other cities in a highly competitive contest.
A city official said that applications for federal grants are initiated at the agency level – like the police or fire departments – and funneled through the city’s Office of Management and Budget.
An assistant secretary at Homeland Security, Tracy Henke, told Fox News that the grants reflect the fact that terror risks have changed and the department has better risk assessment capability and insight today than it did one or two years ago. Ms. Henke said that New York City still receives 18% of all the urban area funding.
Last year, New York City received 25% of the urban area funding. Washington, D.C., the city that received the second highest level of cuts, will see its grant decrease by about $31 million.
In the latest round of grants, the cities with the largest percentage increases in funding are Jersey City/Newark, Louisville, Charlotte, and Omaha. Memphis, Orlando, and Ft. Lauderdale were awarded urban anti-terror grants from the federal government for the first time.
A widely circulated memo from the Department of Homeland Security that assessed New York City’s risk is raising some questions with several elected officials. The officials questioned the statistical accuracy of the memo, which seemed to vastly underestimate the amount of large financial institutions in the city and listed the total number of national monuments and icons as zero.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, blamed the cuts on the administration playing politics.
“It is clear whoever wrote that memo is documenting what we long thought about the DHS: They don’t know their rear end from their elbow when it comes to assessing what is at risk,” Mr. Weiner told The New York Sun.
“Secretary Chertoff has had enough time. There has to be some level of accountability,” Mr. Weiner said.
Rep. Joseph Crowley, a Democrat of the Bronx, held a press conference at ground zero over the cuts. Mr. Crowley said that the Department of Homeland Security’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the cuts to New York’s anti-terror funding were cause enough for Mr. Chertoff to step down.
“This is a slap in the face and a stab in the back,” Mr. Crowley said.
The state of New York also saw its grants cut by about 20%. According to an analysis performed by the office of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York State will receive an estimated $2.78 a person, while Wyoming will receive $14.83 a person.
A White House spokesman directed calls to the Department of Homeland Security.
A spokesman for Homeland Security, Russell Knocke, told the Sun that New York City “fared quite well compared to all the cities on the list.”
Mr. Knocke said that the department must “look at the national picture” and that “we are not fighting yesterday’s war, but the current threat picture.”
He stopped short of saying that New Yorkers should breathe easier based on a lower risk assessment. “We urge New Yorkers to continue to be vigilant,” Mr. Knocke said.
“We knew upfront that people weren’t going to like it,” he said. “We’re okay with that because we believe what we are doing is right.”