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Few train riders delayed by extra security

(The following article by Caren Halbfinger was posted on the White Plains Journal News website on August 3.)

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Extra precautions being taken around sensitive locations throughout New York City and its northern suburbs could affect travel time indefinitely for some commuters.

The heightened security measures include extra police officers, more bomb-sniffing dogs and random vehicle searches. The added security extends beyond the financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington that the federal government warned have been targeted for potential terrorist attacks.

Motorists who drive into Manhattan likely will notice more police checkpoints squeezing and slowing traffic. With inbound trucks banned from all bridges and tunnels that empty into Lower Manhattan, motorists will find traffic heavier at other city crossings, such as the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge. But most mass transit riders should see few new delays.

"We have an increased visible presence at all of our facilities," said Tony Ciavolella, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. He said such measures would remain in effect indefinitely.

Metro-North Railroad riders said they noticed no difference en route into Manhattan yesterday, but several streets around Grand Central Terminal were newly closed to vehicular traffic. Pierre Gentin, 36, of New Rochelle, a lawyer at Credit Suisse First Boston on 23rd Street, said although he noticed a little more security inside the terminal, the street closings didn't affect his ability to catch a cab outside.

"I took a cab at 42nd and Park, just like a regular day," he said.

Railroad riders from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties said the heightened terror alert did not prompt them to change their plans.

"I have a job to do. What am I going to do?" Bill Visconti, 46, said as he returned to the Brewster station after work.

Visconti, a court reporter whose office overlooks Grand Central, walked by a potential terrorist target, the Citigroup Center, on his way to an appointment.

"There were lots of cops and a strong security presence," he said, citing officers with assault rifles slung over their shoulders. "It makes me feel more comfortable. ... I think something could happen and that this is a credible alarm."

Christa Mui, who works at the World Financial Center and was waiting for an NJ Transit train at the Suffern station, was more skeptical.

"I think that ... the timing of the announcements may be politically motivated, so I'm suspect," said Mui, of Pomona.

Officials from the Port Authority and the Transportation Security Administration would not specify what kind of extra security measures were being taken at New York's major airports, but TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said federal security directors at each airport have a "menu of security measures available to them."

At Westchester County Airport, travelers will see more bomb-sniffing dogs and random vehicle searches at the approach to the airport and car-rental return areas. Security also will be stepped up at air charter hangars and corporate jet terminals.

"We're particularly concerned about large vehicles," Public Works Commissioner Thomas Belfiore said. "People returning rental cars may be subject to being stopped and having their vehicles checked. The Transportation Security Administration will be more sensitive to foreign documents and passports. We have some concerns about fraudulent documents."

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

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