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NY elected officials say money needed for railway security

(The Associated Press circulated the following story by Deepti Hajela on June 21.)

NEW YORK -- The federal government needs to put more money into homeland security, and more of that needs to go toward the nation's rail and transit systems, elected officials and transportation workers said Monday.

"The sad reality is that our rails, transport and freight networks remain shockingly vulnerable to acts of terrorism," Rep. Carolyn Maloney said Monday at a news conference at Grand Central Terminal.

She was accompanied by Rep. Eliot Engel and officials from a number of transit unions.

"We lack the focus and the leadership in the government agencies in charge," she said. "They have not done enough, fast enough."

The officials called for more funding that could be spent on emergency training for employees, security cameras at stations, canine units and detectors to warn against biological or chemical agents.

The news conference was one of several held around the country Monday by the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Homeland Security, which is led by Maloney. Other locations included Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Houston.

The officials said that while $4.5 billion has been spent on airline safety, only $65 million has been allocated for rail and transit safety.

"I'm all in favor of airport security," Engel said, "but the fact of the matter is that many, many of our people in this country are traveling on trains."

Engel and Maloney said places like New York, at high risk, should get more money. Engel criticized a recent vote in Congress against an amendment that would have transferred dollars from a homeland security fund for states to a separate fund for cities at risk of terrorist attack. He also spoke out against Bush administration tax cuts.

"Tax cuts do not buy a hazmat (hazardous-materials) suit for a fireman ... tax cuts don't buy training," Engel said.

The White House did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The union officials also called for more staffing, criticizing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for cutbacks in employees at token booths and other facilities.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

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