By James DeWeese
Citing unusually specific intelligence reports provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said terrorists had researched the possibility of using car or truck bombs to attack Citigroup Center in Midtown, the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan and the Prudential Building in Newark, N.J.Since the weekend, city and transit police have instituted a wide array of security measures, including special police units, changes in bridge and tunnel traffic patterns and random commercial vehicle searches at sites such as the Triboro Bridge. And more uniformed police officers have been deployed on the subways and the Long Island Rail Road trains throughout Queens and the city, said MTA spokesman Tom Kelly.Despite the elevated state of alert, Bloomberg encouraged Queens residents and other New Yorkers to carry on as usual, stressing that there was no time frame associated with the intelligence reports.Bloomberg advised New Yorkers to report to work as usual and “enjoy the very freedoms the terrorists find threatening.”Even before Bloomberg's announcement, a private guard was deployed outside the 1.4-million-square-foot Citigroup annex in Long Island City. The guard, who would not give his name, said it was the first time he had been called in on a weekend to stand watch outside the building that houses more than 4,800 employees.He also said everyone who enters the building undergoes an intense security screening, which includes ID checks and X-ray scans of possessions. Barricades have not been erected in Long Island City as they have in Midtown, where security appeared to be tighter.”We do a good job,” he said.Meanwhile, a marked police cruiser also guarded the entrance to the emblematic Queens building, circling in front to inspect parked cars.Across the river, special rifle-toting Hercules police units watched over the Citigroup Center at East 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue. With more than 24,000 employees, Citigroup is the largest private employer in the city with offices scattered across the boroughs.New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey called for similar security measures outside the Prudential building.Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge Sunday said the International Monetary Fund and World Bank building in Washington were also considered targets.On Monday city police also established checkpoints for random truck and commercial vehicle searches at Manhattan-bound bridges and tunnels throughout the city, including the Triboro Bridge. All commercial vehicles south of 53rd Street in Manhattan were also subject to police search.The MTA has banned commercial vehicles from the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels, MTA spokesman Tom Kelly said.The Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn was also closed to truck traffic heading into the city in an effort to streamline random truck inspections by concentrating them at the Manhattan Bridge.The Holland Tunnel was also closed to commercial traffic.Enhanced scrutiny on the subways and commuter rail lines Ñ including the G and No. 7 subway lines that cross Queens and stop under or near the Long Island City Citigroup building Ñ are nothing new, said Kelly, the MTA spokesman.”I don't know that it would be fair to say they were stepped up,” Kelly said of the measures. “We've been at a higher state of alert over the last years.”Media reports indicated that on Monday most people reported for work as normal at the five institutions specifically named in the intelligence, which appears to predate the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.On the roads around New York, the heightened security measures led to bottlenecks in some areas, such as the Manhattan Bridge, but traffic elsewhere appeared to flow normally after the changes.Nevertheless, some commercial vehicle operators have reported delays.FreshDirect, an online grocery store based in Long Island City that provides home delivery, issued an advisory on its Web site.”Heightened security and additional truck inspections in and around New York City may result in delays for scheduled deliveries. We appreciate your patience and understanding,” the advisory read.Bloomberg and city Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who held a joint press conference at City Hall Sunday, promised to tap as many resources as necessary to protect financial buildings and other landmarks.”Let me assure all New Yorkers of one thing: We are deploying our full array of counterterrorism forces,” Bloomberg said. “We will spare no expense.”But the mayor also said the city will seek to balance resources so as not to pull them from other sensitive areas, such as Madison Square Garden, site of the upcoming Republican Convention.The day before the federal government raised the color-coded terror threat level in Newark, N.J. and Washington, D.C. from yellow to orange, indicating a high level of threat, the NYPD issued a statement saying New York was still considered a target for Al Qaeda. New York has been at the orange level since Sept. 11, 2001.The police statement encouraged corporate security directors to carefully review their own procedures, including checking heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.Workers outside the Citigroup building in Long Island City, where the company plans to break ground on another facility some time next year, almost universally declined to address the security measures or their opinion on the threat.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.