Security tightens as convention dates draw near – QNS.com

Security tightens as convention dates draw near

By Philip Newman

That, of course, is the whole idea in the stepped-up security campaign that kicked off Monday and will run through Sept. 2 during the Republican National Convention below Madison Square Garden.”We've ramped up a week in advance to thwart any terrorist plans,” said Paul Browne, a deputy commissioner of police.The LIRR distributed a special Penn Station Information Card to riders rolling through Queens and other points this week showing particulars about preferred routes to use inside the station during the GOP convention. The wallet size card has a an overview map of Penn Station highlighting the two entrances that will be open during the convention.”The MTA and the Long Island Rail Road have been coordinating plans and working with various law enforcement agencies to help maintain normal service to Penn Station during the convention,” said Peter Kalikow, chairman of the MTA. Kalikow said the information cards should make it easier for riders to move around the station without major inconvenience caused by security measures.Last week the Long Island Rail Road urged riders to switch to subways to avoid Penn Station altogether and to buy commuter tickets at outlying stations before the convention opens Aug. 30. Some business in the area planned to shut down, while others assigned some employees to work at home and keep only a skeletal staff in the office.Browne said it was not that police had received new information that any specific act of terrorism was planned but rather “the visible aspects of the security act as a deterrent to terrorism.”Police have said the anti-terrorism campaign, including Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, involves 10,000 police officers but Browne declined to say how many of the officers were assigned to the station and the Garden.Police both in and out of uniform were riding subway trains.New York State National Guard members are also on duty in Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal as they have been since the attack on the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001.Police also patrolled the so-called frozen zone around Penn Station, an area where private garbage pickup has been banned temporarily in favor of city trash pickup and where some bus routes have been re-routed during the GOP convention.One such diverted bus route was the Q32 which runs from Jackson Heights to Penn Station. Patrons of that line found their bus stop on Seventh Avenue across the street from Madison Square Garden had been moved to Fifth Avenue and 32nd Street, a 10-minute walk to the east.Meanwhile, Federal Judge William Pauley ruled against the thousands of protesters who want to hold a demonstration on the Great Lawn of Central Park during the convention.Pauley suggested the demonstrators might want to hold their protest in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx or the East Meadow of Central Park.Transit agencies been trying to help their passengers cope with the changes wrought by the security precautions.The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it was ready to handle thousands of travelers who will visit New York City during the Republican National Convention … along with hundreds of thousands of daily commuters who use the agency's bridges, tunnels, terminals and PATH rapid transit rail system.The Port Authority said it has worked with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of its facilities.The GOP convention and the heightened security has affected people at all levels.An organization called Picture the Homeless has been handing out leaflets outside Madison Square Garden asking: “Are You Searching for a Safe Haven to Sleep During the Republican National Convention?”For homeless New Yorkers, it has never been easy to find a good night's sleep. To make it worse, the Republican National Convention comes with frozen zones, massive police presence, terrorist warnings, Secret Service agents and other craziness. Homeless people concerned with their own safety have organized safe havens for sleep from Aug. 28 through Sept. 2nd. If you are interested, meet us Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. In the park in front of the Health Clinic.”Struggling for sweet dreams during the RNC Nightmare!”Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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