New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said none of the candidates vying to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked for a briefing on threats from terrorism.
The public should demand detailed answers from the candidates on their plans to protect New York at a time when the threat of terrorism is as great, if not greater, than before the World Trade Center was destroyed during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Kelly said today at a breakfast in Manhattan.
“Whoever wins will carry daunting responsibilities,” Kelly said. “Arguably, the most important is to protect the city from another terrorist attack.
‘‘Over the past 12 years, the New York City Police Department has built a comprehensive counterterrorism program to do just that,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘It’s critically important that our efforts be sustained in the next administration. But where do the candidates stand on these issues? Surprisingly, we haven’t heard much.”
The city will elect a new mayor on Nov. 5, with party primaries to be held tomorrow. Bill de Blasio, the city’s 52-year-old public advocate, has support from 39 percent of likely Democratic voters, just shy of the 40 percent he needs in tomorrow’s election to avoid a runoff, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
Former city Comptroller William Thompson has 25 percent and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has 18 percent. About 8 percent were undecided, and 18 percent said they may change their minds, according to the poll released today, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the most populous U.S. city by more than 6-to-1. City Hall for the past 20 years has been run by Republican former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Bloomberg, who ran in 2001 and 2005 as a Republican and in 2009 as an independent.
Former Metropolitan Transportation Authority head Joseph Lhota leads the Republican race with 48 percent of likely voters, ahead of businessman John Catsimatidis, with 24 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll of 101 voters released Sept. 3. The poll’s margin of error was 9.8 percentage points.
Bloomberg, 71, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is barred by law from seeking a fourth term. Kelly, 72, was appointed by Bloomberg as commissioner in January 2002, making him the first person to hold the post in a second administration. He previously served as commissioner from 1992 to 1994 under Democrat David Dinkins.
De Blasio asked for a briefing on the department’s counterterrorism efforts following President Barack Obama’s remarks on Syria and is working with City Hall to schedule the talk, said Wiley Norvell, press secretary for the public advocate’s office.
“Bill de Blasio believes there is nothing more important than protecting New York City from the threat of terror and keeping New Yorkers safe,” Norvell said in an e-mail.
As the city council speaker, Quinn has talks and briefings regularly with the NYPD on issues ranging from crime to counterterrorism, her spokesman, Mike Morey, said in an e-mail.
“In the course of this campaign she has been advised by and consulted with numerous officials in the NYPD and with antiterrorism experts because she knows the single most important responsibility for the mayor of New York is keeping the public safe,” Morey said.
The public has a right to ask the candidates about their understanding of the terrorism threat to New York, their perspectives on the role the police department should play in protecting the city from attacks, and whether they will continue to fight for federal funding, Kelly said at today’s breakfast, which was sponsored by the Association for a Better New York and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Kelly cited several terrorist plots with connections to New York in the past 10 months, including a Bangladeshi man’s plan to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb at the New York Federal Reserve and the Boston Marathon bombers’ alleged plans to attack New York next.
“Al-Qaeda and those who share its ideology haven’t forgotten about New York,” said Kelly, who told the audience not to be “lulled into complacency” by the lack of attacks on the city since Sept. 11.
“In the mind of al-Qaeda and its acolytes, New York is the symbol of all they hate about America and the West,” Kelly said.
Kelly also responded to criticism that followed the publication of a book by two Associated Press reporters on the department’s counterterrorism methods, saying that those who say the police have been insensitive to constitutional rights are “wrong.”
The department subjects terrorism probes to a “rigorous examination” by its attorneys to ensure conformance with city guidelines for investigating political activities, he said.
“The police department’s investigations are based on leads and other information about possible criminal conduct,” Kelly said. “They are never determined by a subject’s religion, ethnic background or political opinion. However, if we follow the subject of an approved investigation into a mosque, this does not put the entire congregation under suspicion.”
Security from global terrorism must be a “top priority” for the incoming administration, and enough isn’t known about what the next mayor will do to protect the city, Kelly said.
“We’ve come too far and we’ve sacrificed too much to leave ourselves vulnerable,” Kelly said. “This is a city worth fighting for and defending every minute of the day. Our police officers have done just that. But they can’t do it alone.”
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