Amid Heightened Security, Financial Firms Including Citigroup, AIG, MetLife and Pru Tend to Business

August 3, 2004

Police closed several streets in midtown Manhattan and banned trucks from bridges and tunnels leading to the city’s financial district Monday, Aug. 2, following a government warning that terrorists were planning to strike the city.

Despite the warning’s unusual specificity, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly urged residents to go about their normal business, much as they have done during prior terror warnings.

“You’re going to see increased security throughout the city,” Kelly said in an interview on the “Today'” show Monday.

“But clearly … we live in an open society,” he continued. “We can’t protect every location. We are using intelligence, we are using some instinct. We’ve had an awful lot of practice here, you might say, in deploying our resources.”

The terror warning described possible terrorist attacks against financial institutions in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., saying a confluence of intelligence over the weekend pointed to a car or truck bomb.

The government named the Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank buildings in Washington and the Prudential building in Newark as targets.

Beginning Sunday night, police rerouted all Manhattan-bound trucks from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Manhattan Bridge in an effort to streamline random vehicle searches.

Trucks and vans were also forbidden to enter the city through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel, which lead to lower Manhattan from Brooklyn and New Jersey, respectively. Trucks were instead diverted to the Lincoln Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge in upper Manhattan, police said.

Police also said they would close streets surrounding Grand Central Station, including Vanderbilt Avenue between 42nd and 45th streets and 43rd and 44th streets between Madison and Vanderbilt avenues.

On Sunday, the 59-story Citigroup Center, which has shops on street level and offices above, closed several internal entrances, allowing only workers to enter, and made the shops accessible only from the streets.

A Citigroup official at the building, the third largest in midtown, refused to discuss security there. A company e-mail to employees said they should expect to see tighter security at all its New York buildings.

Kelly said police were advising businesses to safeguard their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

On Sunday night Kelly accompanied police officials from the counterterrorism bureau and the intelligence division to brief the security directors of 13 major financial institutions: Morgan Stanley, Nasdaq, American Stock Exchange, Lehman Bros., Goldman Sachs, Federal Reserve Bank, Bear Stearns, Wachovia, AIG, Citigroup, MetLife, JP Morgan Chase and the New York Stock Exchange. They discussed the recent intelligence reporting about targets in New York and reviewed security measures, a police spokesman said.

In Washington, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said it would be up to New York officials to decide whether to move to the highest level of security, red. The city has remained a step below, on orange, since the color system was implemented after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bloomberg and Kelly said they would not consider placing the city at red alert because the recent intelligence did not indicate when the terrorists might try to attack.

About 10 miles west of Manhattan in Newark, New Jersey, the threats were also being taken seriously. Police set up metal fences surrounding the headquarters of Prudential Financial, blocked off two streets, and armed themselves with assault rifles after authorities warned of a possible terrorist attack on it and other financial institutions.

New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey asked the public to report suspicious activity but added, “we can’t allow fear to dominate our lives.”

Newark police Detective Todd McClendon declined to offer specifics on security measures planned for the Prudential building, which stands 24 stories tall and is one of downtown Newark’s highest structures.

“We’ll just say that it is a significant increase of security,” he said. “We’ve taken the threat seriously like we’ve taken all threats.”

In Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey said officers on overtime detail would increase patrols and the department will boost the number of checks of vehicles on city roadways.

“We will be making increased traffic stops, truck stops and the like, around these particular facilities as well,” he said. “We have no plans at this time to totally shut down the area around the World Bank and IMF. But we will be greatly enhancing our presence along with the private security that’s already there.”

The government’s warning came four weeks before the Republican National Convention, which will draw more than 30,000 people to midtown Manhattan, including top government officials and the president. Bloomberg said the Republican convention would go on as planned.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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