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Terror Financing Cut, New York Reacts


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

There was more than a little outrage today in New York City. Politicians and newspapers there have had quite a bit to say about the Department of Homeland Security's decision to cut New York's antiterrorism grants. The city's share of the federal grant money was cut yesterday by about 40%.

Here's NPR's Margot Adler:

MARGOT ADLER reporting:

The headlines this morning said it all. Feds Slash Our Funds to Boost Hicks in Sticks. That in the New York Post. Or Shove It, Chertoff, in the Daily News, which right on the front page called for the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, to be fired. It was all reminiscent of the famous Daily News headline some 30 years ago, Ford to City - Drop Dead. When the Department of Homeland Security announced the size of the grants yesterday, New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, responded quickly.

Mr. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Mayor, New York City): Do I think they should have given us more? I don't think there's any question. They should have given us a lot more. 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.

ADLER: And Long Island Congressman Peter King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, called it a knife in the back of New York City. But despite the blaring headlines, people on the streets of New York were much more restrained. Valerie Morris, Paul Trautman and Paul Shank were all eating lunch, reading the paper or taking photographs in Bryant Park.

Ms. VALERIE MORRIS (Resident, New York City): New York, it was the target. There's no reason not to believe we won't be a target again.

Mr. PAUL TRAUTMAN (Resident, New York City): To provide support for rural America just seems absurd. Even Chicago got shortchanged, so it just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

Mr. PAUL SHANK (Resident, New York City): Well, it's like the mayor said. When they find a terrorist, he doesn't have a map of Cleveland in his pocket.

ADLER: Homeland Security officials initially defended their decision, saying New York City has only four major financial assets and no national monuments or icons. The Daily News answered that by putting big pictures in this morning's paper of the United Nations, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, with the word icon in bold on each.

But there is some question whether New York City officials listed those places as icons in their grant proposal. And today, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff said these buildings and monuments were considered in the analysis even if they were not called icons.

The city's proposal may have received lower ratings because a large share of the grant money goes recurring costs, paying overtime to police officers. Chertoff said New York City is still considered the number one terrorist target and it still gets more money than any other city.

Overall Congress allocated less money this year and there are other cities, like Buffalo, that also lost a huge share of their funding. Newark and Los Angeles gain money. Some of these complexities found their way into people's reactions. Nathan Dowden sat in the park at lunchtime and reflected.

Mr. NATHAN DOWDEN (Resident, New York City): I'm sure there are a lot of municipal services who are extremely upset in New York City because I'm sure there are budgets that were set and now all of a sudden they're sitting there saying, well, I don't know what I'm going to do. But as to the average person, I don't know what it means.

ADLER: Still, many New Yorkers believe the city that took the brunt of the 9/11 attacks faces the gravest threat. New York's Governor George Pataki, speaking near Ground Zero, said as much today.

Governor GEORGE PATAKI (New York): New York has been attacked twice. We're a symbol of America. I mean, there's a reason the Statue of Liberty is in New York Harbor. Because this is the gateway to America for so many people. And to not understand that in the allocation of funding for Homeland Security is ridiculous.

ADLER: And the head of public information for the New York City Police Department, Paul J. Brown, told NPR that al Qaida has always considered the financial center of this country - in other words, New York - its prime target.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Margot Adler died on July 28, 2014 at her home in New York City. She was 68 and had been battling cancer. Listen to NPR Correspondent David Folkenflik's retrospective on her life and career