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Queens lawmakers call for restored funds to counter-terrorism grants

By Tom Momberg

The aim of protecting the public against the ill will of a select few has sparked bipartisanship in the borough.

In the wake of an arrest of two Queens women accused of conspiring to detonate a bomb in the United States last week, it is clear that such threats extend beyond the capability of simple security measures to catch, and cuts in funding to counterterrorism efforts in 2011 and 2013 have lawmakers concerned.

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) is working across party lines to help ensure New York City can secure its residents against imminent terrorist threats, leading a bipartisan effort with Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) to coerce the Appropriations Committee on Homeland Security not to cut funds to Homeland Security Grants Programs.

Those grant programs have, in the past been fundamental to the flexibility of officials to implement complex innovative programs and procure technology that help identify concerns before they become real.

As a member of the Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, King joined Crowley in writing a letter to Appropriations, signed by 15 bipartisan members of New York’s congressional delegation, demanding the programs be fully funded and the performance period of the grants to be extended by a year.

“New York City is the top target for terrorists who seek to inflict damage on the U.S., and we must ensure our city and region has the resources it needs to protect New Yorkers,” said Crowley on Facebook the same day Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddigui of Jamaica were arrested for allegedly plotting to build a weapon of mass destruction with violent jihadist intent.

Fully funding the Homeland grants would restore national programs like the Urban Settings Security Initiative to its 2011 levels, providing financial assistance for local and state agency multi-discipline planning using a community-wide approach. Grantees are often local law enforcement agencies, which coordinate undercover efforts like those that led to the arrests of Velentzas and Siddigui.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said protecting New York is the frontline of protecting the nation against terrorist efforts, which everyone in Congress should get behind.

“I applaud Rep. Crowley, Rep. King, and other members of New York’s congressional delegation for coming together in a bipartisan way and urging the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to stand with New York by fully funding our homeland security needs — because as the No. 1 terror target, we are fighting this battle every single day,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The nationwide grants were cut geographically and by about $1 billion in 2011, and by an additional $74 million in 2013, which followed $85 billion in congressional budget cuts to the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) were the other Queens lawmakers who signed the letter asking for restorative funding last week.

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