Friday, June 02, 2006

Feds to city: drop dead
Feds to city: drop dead
Homeland honcho cuts funds by 40%

BY MICHAEL SAUL in New York and MICHAEL McAULIFF in Washington

A new report from the Homeland Security Department deems that New York City has no national icons that deserve special protection from potential terrorist threats.
The city was stunned yesterday to find that its share of federal anti-terror funds was slashed nearly in half by bureaucrats who said it has no national icons to protect and lousy defense plans.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff determined, however, that cities that have never been targeted by Al Qaeda — like Louisville, Atlanta and Omaha — deserve whopping increases.

"This is a knife in the back," fumed a furious Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "As far as I'm concerned, the Department of Homeland Security has declared war on New York."

Mayor Bloomberg ridiculed Homeland Security's reasoning.

"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 places or 45 places [that get funding]," he fumed.

The city will get $125 million from the feds' high-threat bank account, a 40% cut from the $207 million it received last year. The Homeland money pot was smaller overall this year, but the rest of the country is being trimmed just 14%.

The lowball dollar amount puts at risk the NYPD's plan to build a "ring of steel" of security measures around lower Manhattan — surveillance cameras, computerized license plate readers and vehicle barriers.

The NYPD had asked the feds for $89.1 million for the system, modeled after London's security program. London's system gained worldwide recognition last summer when police cameras provided images of the bombers who attacked its transit system.

Heaping insult on injury, Homeland Security reviewers slammed some of the city's key anti-terror programs as among the worst in the nation — including the vaunted NYPD counterterrorism unit.

Emergency plans for the police, fire, hospitals and other city departments were considered so inferior that "a special condition will be included in the grant award prohibiting drawdown of funds ... until they have been approved through DHS," Homeland's assessment concluded.

"These are the same bean counters who think that the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge are not national monuments or icons," scoffed Bloomberg spokesman Jordan Barowitz.

A Homeland Security spokesman insisted New York's cut was based on a powerful new matrix that crunches millions of bits of data to figure out where money is most needed.

"We're quite frankly getting highly sophisticated in our ability to analyze threat," said Russ Knocke.

Knocke would not address specifically why a threat-based assessment cut funds for a city that has been attacked twice and targeted repeatedly by Islamic terrorists.

"It's not so much fighting the last war, it's taking in the threat picture today," he said. "We've got to apply dollars where they will have the greatest impact."

But a document obtained by the Daily News that explains what Homeland Security reviewers were looking at in their analysis suggests key data were missing.

For instance, in the category "national monuments and icons," the feds list none. For banking and finance businesses, they could find only four worth more than $8 billion, when the Bloomberg administration estimates there are at least 20.

"How do you leave every single landmark in the most famous city in the world off of that list?" said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who along with King was demanding a meeting with Chertoff.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed the White House and said, "I don't think the President should come back and express solidarity with New York until there is more funding."

Bloomberg said the city wouldn't change its approach. "We're going to continue to do what it takes to keep this city safe and then worry about the money," he said.

With Alison Gendar and Dorian Block

More money to guard nothing

The fire chief of Charlotte, N.C., admits his city doesn't have any national monuments in danger of being bombed. And a spokesman for Omaha is "not aware" of a single credible threat against his municipality since 9/11.

Yet these cities are among 15 that received an increase in homeland security funding this year, while New York City's allotment was slashed.

Most of the lucky localities are using their windfall to buy equipment, beef up training or create emergency response plans.

In Louisville, Ky., for instance, the money will go toward creating a new communication system for first responders to a disaster.

A spokeswoman drew on the failure of FDNY radios in the World Trade Center attack on 9/11 — even though the tallest building in Louisville tops out at 35 stories.

Here's how some cities are faring under the new budget:

Jacksonville, Fla. 2005 funds: $6.8 million. 2006 funds: $9.2 million. Increase: 26%. Major landmark: Alltel Stadium, home of Jacksonville Jaguars.

St. Louis; 2005 funds: $7 million. 2006 funds: $9.2 million. Increase: 23.6%. Major landmark: Gateway Arch.

Louisville, Ky.; 2005 funds: $5 million. 2006 funds: $8.5 million. Increase: 41.2%. Major landmark: Churchill Downs race track.

Omaha 2005 funds: $5.1 million. 2006 funds: $8.3 million. Increase: 38.2%. Major landmark: Offutt Air Force Base.

Tracy Connor