Archive for the ‘homeland security’ Category

July 31, 2007

Homeland Security Boat Ride
Posted by Susan Stark

The ferry that runs from Staten Island to Manhattan and back is undeniably one the greatest free boat rides in the world, if not THE greatest. It provides a stunning view of the New York Harbor, from the Verrazano Bridge connecting Staten Island with Brooklyn and defining the border between the harbor and the ocean, to the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. Tourists from all over the world experience this ride, as well as locals looking for a cheap, fun activity. But the ferry is also an absolute necessity for the 70,000 Staten Islanders who commute to Manhattan to work each day.

And ever since that fateful day six years ago on the 11th of September, the ferry experience has suffered.

For Staten Islanders like myself, we have a painful reminder of the missing Twin Towers, because they used to be the first thing we saw of Manhattan when coming down to the ferry terminal. Now we only see the absence of them.

After the attacks, the ferry was suspended for ordinary traffic, and only “essential personnel” where allowed into Manhattan (rescue workers, policemen, firemen, etc.). It wasn’t until the following Monday, on the 17th, that the ferry was open to foot traffic again.

But, in a certain way, the Staten Island Ferry is still suspended. The carefree boat ride isn’t what it used to be.

It started with the unfortunate but necessary suspension of car-ferry service, in which Islanders and other New Yorkers could drive their vehicles onto the ferry and across the water. Fear of car bombs put a stop to that. Car-ferry service has not resumed.

Worse, as far as I’m concerned, is the banning of musicians on the ferry. We used to have performers come on the ferry, much in the same way the subway still does today. Now they’re not allowed, allegedly because passengers wouldn’t be able to hear announcements over the PA system. However, I don’t ever remember the music being so loud that we couldn’t hear the loudspeaker. That enjoyment is a casualty of September 11th.

Another troublesome difference was the installation of security cameras on the boat. Apologists would say that, like the car-ferry and musician ban, this protects us. But I feel like I’m in a department store rather than on a free ferry ride, with roving little cameras fixing their beady little black eyes on me. In any case, the cameras aren’t much use against a terrorist, except for maybe identifying what happened after the act of terror occured, assuming the cameras weren’t disabled either before or after.

And if the musician ban and department-store cameras weren’t bad enough, there is the Coast Guard. I shouldn’t ever regret the presence of the Coast Guard, because of their search-and-rescue training. But on the little Coast Guard boat that escorts the ferry occasionally, there’s a wicked-looking semi-automatic perched up right were it can swivel and shoot a ferry passenger at will. Ostensibly, any shot-down ferry passenger will be a terrorist, but mistakes can be made, and innocent bystanders can be hit instead.

And, to top it all off, just last week I was on the ferry listening to my radio, when an NYPD helicopter decided to trail the boat, loud enough to drown out what I was listening to. I was outside on the top deck, so I got a pretty good view of the helicopter circling around the boat. Finally it “faced” me and started moving sideways, like some weird, flying crab. Presumably there might have been a reason for it’s presence, but if anything was happening on the boat, I don’t see what good a helicopter could’ve done.

I always believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and sensible precautions such as banning cars and using dogs to inspect bags and packages are necessary. The rest of it, unfortunately, is just a lessening of enjoyment and a waste of the taxpayers’ money.