WEEHAWKEN, NJ (PIX11)—Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, issued a warning Friday to the federal agency that's cut security funding by 2/3rds to New Jersey and New York in just two years. "There's only so long we can absorb cuts," King said at a press conference near the Lincoln Tunnel entrance in Weehawken. "The fact is, there's an ongoing threat.
King, a Republican from Long Island, took a tour of vulnerable sites in the 13th district of New Jersey with his House colleague, Representative Albio Sires. The district is said to contain "the two most dangerous miles in the United States," from a homeland security standpoint, because it's home to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, which are very close to the spot where Newark-Liberty International airport meets the New Jersey Turnpike, railroad lines, and the massive shipping container terminal at Port Newark-Port Elizabeth. There's also a chlorine plant in Kearny. "If something happened at that plant, it could kill half a million people," Rep. Sires remarked. He recalled not long after 9/11, police sharpshooters were stationed on the Pulaski Skyway, which overlooks the plant.
King and Sires are trying to preserve whatever funding they can, from the Department of Homeland Security. DHS will announce its allocations for the latest fiscal year in several weeks, and the two congressmen are fearing the worst. They say overall funding to critical programs in the MTA has dropped 43 percent in just two years. Transit Security grants were $98 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2010, but they dropped to $71.5 million in 2011. King said even some members of his own party seem to think of the 9/11 terror attack as a distant, historic event "that dates back to the time of Gettysburg." He said a major reason there's been no successful, follow-up attack since 9/11 by terrorists are the "layers of security" in place at prime targets.
Sires took Congressman King on a tour of some sites where thousands of commuters travel each day, including the PATH train tunnel that runs between the World Trade Center station in lower Manhattan to Jersey City. Last May, a New Jersey man walked two miles underground from the World Trade Center PATH stop to New Jersey, telling cops on the other side he'd left a backpack in the tunnel with a bomb in it. It turned out to be a hoax, but the security breach illustrated the need for better surveillance. King said Friday, "It shouldn't have happened, but we see increased numbers of cameras now." And Sires pointed out, "We saw a laser component in the PATH tunnel that sets off an alarm, if a person tries to walk through."