New Terror Plot, Same Old Money Problem

Categories: Fact Check

Touting a major exclusive headlined "Bomb tunnel, flood city," the New York Daily News jolted the region today:

The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.

The terrorists sought to drown the Financial District as New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina, sources said. They also wanted to attack subways and other tunnels.

Other news outlets quoted official sources as saying the threat wasn't quite so imminent. Imminent or not, the article seems sure to reopen the debate over the 40 percent cut in New York City's share of Homeland Security funding. Consider a couple of perspectives on what's happening with the city's anti-terrorism dough.

First, an idea for where to get more of it--make the Pentagon pay.

Second, a look at an unlikely player siphoning off the existing money--Albany:

[S]ome of the money New York City wants is being held up not in D.C. but in Albany. Last fiscal year, New York City was awarded $208 million under the federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). But the city only got $166 million off the bat, because all those funds first pass through the state government, which can take a 20 percent cut.

The state claims that much of its share eventually ends up protecting the city anyway. Local officials, however, aren't sure where it all goes.

According to a recent letter from James McMahon, director of the state Office of Homeland Security, the state's UASI share amounted to $42 million. About $3 million went back to the city. Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties received $2 million each, and Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers were granted a combined $1.25 million. But all that adds up to only a quarter of the state's share. In fiscal 2004, the state distributed all its share to New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and the Port Authority.

Even when the state claims its money helps New York City, the impact is fuzzy. In fiscal 2003, the state Office of Homeland Security said it spent $6.25 million of its $25 million take on "State Police and National Guard Orange Alert costs associated with the protection of critical infrastructure in New York City and the adjacent urban area." What those duties included, however, is something of a mystery to city officials.


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