Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I am sick to f*cking death of the NYPD's penchant for staging "terrorist alert" practice drills during the morning rush hour along 42nd Street anywhere from Times Square to Grand Central. Watch the video, above, to see how this works. It usually involves 80 to 100 patrol cars.
Sometime around 6:45 a.m. the alarm goes out and every available squad car within x number of miles of the test site that day (on 42nd Street it's either Grand Central Station, Times Square, the main branch of the Public Library, or the all-important Starbuck's kiosk at the Sixth Avenue entrance to Bryant Park) drops whatever they're doing (coffee and donuts) and careens, sirens blaring, Hollywood bars blazing, to the designated gathering place. They then execute a maneuver I call "the phalanx" (they call it a "surge") wherein they back their patrol cars in off the street, diagonally, onto the sidewalks, thus blocking at least two lanes of traffic and half of two sidewalks. Because there are so many squad cars, this usually involves blocking the street the entire width of a city block, from avenue to avenue.
The cops then abandon their vehicles and congregate in groups which I assume correspond to their individual precinct houses, whereupon their sergeants or lieutenants count heads and then read them a bunch of shit and then keep them hanging around long enough so that everyone will qualify for at least an hour of extra overtime that day.
Needless to say, this pointless excercise in futility brings crosstown traffic to a grinding halt.
They've been doing this ever since 9/11.
I would mind it a lot less if they'd actually have these drills when the terrorists are most likely to strike, i.e. when nobody's looking. But, oddly enough, they only seem to stage these things when it's most likely to increase everybody's paychecks the next week, i.e. at the change of shifts.
I doubt that the terrorists are going to strike in the middle of 42nd Street. It's far more likely that they'll sneak into Grand Central from the sides, from 43rd to 46th streets, along Madison or Lexington .... where nobody would pay any attention to it.
However, doing it on 42nd Street insures that lots of people pay attention to it. Especially tourists who, by now, have heard all about these thrice-weekly maneuvers (one can only conclude that the terrorists have heard about them now, too!), and line up to watch New York's Finest gather to make breakfast plans for later.
In the meantime, a mile-long line of traffic forms behind the phalanx, from both directions, composed of commuter buses, taxis, delivery trucks and poor schmucks trying to get from one river to the other, all sitting, idling, and burning up OPEC oil like there's no tomorrow.
The fact is that after years of doing this at boringly predictable locations and at utterly predictable times the blush has definitely worn off the rose and the NYPD is no longer fooling anybody.
These exercises are no longer really about preparing for a terrorist attack.
They're really about making a lot of overtime for the NYPD.