We Get Zapped?
By Susan Lee
be shocked if Queens is a terrorist target – that’s what some local
residents and public officials are saying about the security, or lack
thereof, at the borough’s power plants and electric generators.
This week as the nation’s top officials said another terrorist attack on American soil is “inevitable” and law enforcement officials were on high alert after uncorroborated threats named specific New York targets, Queens residents and elected officials told the Tribune that lagging security at power plants that produce the city’s electricity, house oil tanks, natural gases, and other highly flammable substances pose a potentially “catastrophic” danger if attacked.
In the weeks immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, Sanitation Department trucks filled with sand at entrances and security checkpoints set up by the NYPD and National Guard were a visible presence around Queens’ five power plants and numerous generators.
according to neighboring residents, the National Guard has long since moved
out, taking with them the sense of security they once felt.
Gigantiello, founder of the Queens-based Coalition of Helping Organizations
for a (K)Cleaner Environment (CHOKE) said he has observed that absence of
security around the site of a Long Island City electric turbine generator.
electricity-producing generator near the Queensboro Bridge is operated by
the New York Power Authority.
started probably noticing, when I would visit the sites around January, that
there was no more security around,” Gigantiello said.
“At one point, there would be only one or two security guard(s)
inside the gate, asleep, or watching television. Those turbines look
accessible by the water, and the grounds are not secure… anyone could pull
up in a boat, and do anything,” Gigantiello said.
to Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, who toured the some of the
electricity producing facilities himself, neighbors would like to see
security beefed up around Queens’ power plants and generators. Earlier
this month, he introduced legislation to get power plant owners to do just
“I want to ensure that these private companies are not more concerned with their profit margin, rather than a minimal level of security to make the public confident—so they are not jeopardizing safety in the name of saving cost,” Gianaris said.
said that the proposed bill would require power plants to be overseen by the
state Public Security Office, a newly created department in response to the
Sept. 11 attacks.
also told the Tribune that he consulted with local law enforcement
officials to draft the bill.
passed, it will give power to the State Office to set security standards for
all power plants and transmission lines after security experts survey each
facility and make recommendations.
Peter Vallone Jr., who provided legal counsel for CHOKE before taking
office, said he fully supports the Gianaris’ bill.
during a budget crunch, public safety should be a number one priority,
there is “no reason to believe that private companies are not up to par
with security procedures, there is no adequate regulation to see to this,”
a number of power plants and generators in the area, some residents think
about the worst of all possibilities, they said.
But security expert John Prados, Senior Fellow of the National Security Archives based in Washington and author of a recent book titled “America Confronts Terrorism” said that the threat of attacks on power plants are unlikely.
you were terrorist and planning to attack a power plant, first of all, you
would need to familiarize with the design of the plant, observe it over a
long period, figure out how it would happen, sense design of the plant, and
then you would have to procure those things.
It is an elaborate procedure that would take a considerable amount of
time,” Prados said.
have to make a critical distinction between a reasonable threat and
propaganda,” Prados said.
recent announcements made by the F.B.I. and other government officials have
been “a disservice” and “contributing to public hysteria,” he added.
to Ken Klapp, a representative of the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO),
an organization which acts like a broker between energy suppliers and
consumers, if any unforeseen event should occur, whether it be an attack on
the plant or natural disaster, the City would not suffer greatly from power
grid is set up with more generators than are needed and we have designed it
so that if for a variety of reasons, the system will work around the
say that a 1000 mega-watt facility goes down, we would have an extra 1000
mega-watts up in 10 minutes.” Klapp said.
private companies and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) told the Tribune
that increased precautions are being enforced and that the concerns
voiced have been heard.
general policy is that we have increased security.
But we are not discussing it because that gives the bad guys a
are very much aware of the increased concern and apprehension of the
residents,” said Jack Murphy, Director of Public Affairs for the NYPA.
spokeswoman for KeySpan said, “We are in a heightened state of awareness
and we take the concerns very seriously from the community and our
employees, but we can’t disclose the specifics.”
the NYPD was also muted when we asked them about security measures.
any information could be a breach of security in itself, police said.
“As far as those locations, those buildings secure themselves and they do have security, we have a direct line with them and when security needs to be heightened, as far as I know, the area is patrolled,” a police source said.
said he still wants the local power companies to do something to ease the
fears of neighboring residents.
don’t want to see a blueprint of schedules of officers patrolling the
area. I am
very much against that so they (the terrorists) do not get their hands on
vital information on what they’re doing to beef up security. Essentially
you’re giving them a roadmap of security check points,” he said.
I do want to see is a statement issued by companies that they are trying to
double up security and that we have things in place.
Even if they submitted their security plans to government officials.
. .the public would get assurance from the government, I’d feel
comfortable,” he said.
companies should be reaching out to the community and reassuring them that
they are not in any danger,” Gigantiello added.
out of Queens’ five electric power plants are located in western Queens
– the fifth is in Rockaway.
companies that own the plants are NRG, Reliant, and KeySpan Energy.
New York Power Authority also operates an electricity producing facility in
owns the plant in Rockaway and the power plant on Vernon Boulevard in
Reliant, NRG and NYPA plants are all located on 20th Avenue in Astoria.
major bioterrorism bill being discussed in a House and Senate conference
committee will involve definitive protection measures.
As early as this week, the bill will be finalized on the floor for a vote.
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