Residents at a New Brunswick housing complex -- the home to many students and staff affiliated with Rutgers University -- expressed both anger and surprise to news that the New York City Police Department had rented an apartment there, as one of its bases for "surveillance operations" in the Garden State.
The controversial program which started in the years after the September 11th Terrorist attacks, involved monitoring Muslim businesses and student associations.
"Tens of thousands of students who go to the school are here in New Brunswick," said one, furious woman who lives next door to Apartment 1076 in the Plaza Square complex. "I mean, that guy who just killed all those people (in Colorado), he was a graduate of the University of San Diego! Are we going to now start surveying every young white guy who graduated from some school in San Diego?"
The woman, a staff member at Rutgers, did not want to be identified.
The Associated Press obtained a 911 call that was made on June 2nd, 2009, to the New Brunswick Police Department. A building superintendent working in the complex, when it was under old management, stumbled upon what he called "suspicious" stuff inside Apartment 1076.
"Suspicious in the sense that the apartment has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing," the caller said, "has New York City Police Department radios," he continued.
The 911 operator expressed surprise and the caller added more details. "There's computer hardware, software, just laying around. There's pictures of terrorists. There's pictures of our neighboring building that they have."
The NYPD has built databases on Muslim mosques, businesses, shopping habits, and sports preferences, as part of its intelligence-gathering operations.
When the Associated Press revealed earlier this year that its surveillance efforts had moved into New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie was enraged.
"You're going to come into New Jersey to pursue a case," he thundered in March, "make one phone call .to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark!"
New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, said at the time that the NYPD was following constitutional guidelines, and he received a vote of confidence in April from President Obama's chief adviser on terrorism, John Brennan, during Brennan's visit to Police Headquarters in downtown Manhattan.
"He has assured me he's doing everything within guidelines," Brennan said of Kelly. "I'm confident that the coordination that's supposed to be taking place between New York and New Jersey is taking place."
On Wednesday, Commissioner Kelly told reporters, "This is a three year old matter. We will continue to do what we have to do to keep the city safe." Kelly added, " We adhere to the Constitution."
The woman living next door to Apartment 1076 was not appeased, even when PIX 11 pointed out that a convicted plotter in the first, World Trade Center bombing in 1993 had an engineering degree from Rutgers University. " I think the idea of the NYPD going anywhere it wants is horrible," she said.
But another resident, a teacher who works in a nearby public school, was not bothered by the NYPD's program. "Even with New York in front of their name, they're still law enforcement," the man said. "If they had a reason to be here, that's their business."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun