2002-04-27 / Community

Weiner Joins CG in Beefing Up Bay Patrols

Weiner Joins CG in Beefing Up Bay Patrols

Under a new program unveiled today by Rep. Anthony Weiner and Coast Guard officials, the Coast Guard has doubled its airborne patrols of Jamaica Bay, quadrupled the amount of advance notice they require from all foreign in-bound vessels, enhanced inter-agency cooperation to protect potential terrorist targets, and exponentially increased boarding of suspicious vessels. The new measures are designed to protect Jamaica Bay, the southern maritime regions of Brooklyn and Queens, and Staten Island from terrorist attack.

The Coast Guard’s new security measures include:

New Early Detection System - Before September 11, the Coast Guard received notice of inbound vessels 24 hours prior to their arrival, and conducted no intelligence checks. Post-September 11, the Coast Guard receives notice of inbound vessels 96 hours in advance of arrival, and conducts intelligence checks on all foreign crew members. The Coast Guard is working closely with federal and state agencies including the National Vessel Movement Center, the New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit, the U.S. Park Police marine patrol, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and Port Authority Police, to increase information about suspicious local maritime activities and enhance identification of high risk foreign vessels.

Increased Boarding of Foreign Ships - Prior to September 11, Activities New York Coast Guard units conducted approximately 100 investigative boardings per year. Since September 11, Activities New York Coast Guard units have conducted well over 700 boardings, an increase of 700 percent, and expects to average 900 off shore boardings a year for the foreseeable future. The Coast Guard conducts investigative boarding of high-risk vessels prior to reaching the Verrazano Bridge, keeping them a safe distance from Brooklyn and Queens shoreline communities.

Beefed Up Maritime Security:

–Before September 11, the Coast Guard conducted overflights of New York Harbor two times a week. Since September 11, the Coast Guard has been conducting daily overflights, including Jamaica Bay. This air presence is supplemented by the presence of at least one Coast Guard vessel on patrol in the New York harbor 24 hours day, including at least one sweep per day of Jamaica Bay as well as eighteen to 27 hours a week of Coast Guard auxiliary patrols in Jamaica Bay, which is triple the pre-September 11 allotment for auxiliaries. Starting May 1, there will be a 30 percent increase in patrol hours per day in Jamaica Bay by the NYPD.

Focus on Coastal Security - Prior to September 11, Activities New York Coast Guard focused primarily on functions such as search and rescue, boater safety, and boater violations. In the post-September 11 world, the identification and protection of potential terrorist targets will be a core Coast Guard function. Within Jamaica Bay, that means working with federal and state agencies, such as the N.Y.P.D., U.S. Park Police, Port Authority Police, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation, to ensure the security of potential targets such as John F. Kennedy Airport, the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, and the Cross Bay Boulevard Bridge.

"September 11 taught all of us some very tough lessons, chief among them that terrorists will use unconventional means to reach their targets, and that our security forces can never be too prepared," said Rep. Weiner. "Jamaica Bay is neighbor to numerous residential communities in Brooklyn and Queens, is traversed by the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, and is buttressed by the John F. Kennedy Airport–all potential targets for terrorist action. It is imperative that we act now to secure Jamaica Bay from terrorist encroachment, and this five point plan is an important first step."

In the wake of September 11, federal authorities have expressed concern that the nation’s waterways could be used as the fulcrum for a terrorist attack. Thousands of foreign sailors enter the U.S. each year, frequently on foreign ships laden with millions of large cargo containers. Terrorists could use waterways as points of entry into the U.S., smuggle arms within cargo containers, or use the ships themselves as weapons. Jamaica Bay lies in close proximity to several residential communities, including Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach, in Queens, and Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, and Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn.

Last month, Rep. Weiner met with the Commander of Coast Guard Activities in New York, to address these concerns. At the meeting, Rep. Weiner asked the Commander to provide him with a detailed report of the Coast Guard’s post-September 11 efforts to ensure the safety of Jamaica Bay. Today, Commander Michael McAllister, Chief of Operations for Coast Guard Activities New York, and Weiner unveiled the report.

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