No se registran avances en la seguridad de los puertos neoyorkinos

ALBANY – A year after New Jersey’s attorney general called on elected officials in New York and New Jersey to pass legislation that would fill a gap in port security, lawmakers have yet to act on what could be a potential vulnerability in the vast port network the states share.
New Jersey officers patrolling the harbor – as well as trains and ferries that go back and forth between the states – lose authority under current law when they cross into New York.
During emergencies, Gov. George Pataki has had to sign executive orders allowing New Jersey law enforcement to make arrests in New York, and homeland security officials in both states agree the system is inefficient.
Pataki’s recent hospitalization for a ruptured appendix also highlighted its inadequacies because Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue was not aware he had undergone one of two surgeries last month until shortly after the surgery was over.
«What happens if the governor is incapacitated?» said Peter Harvey, the former New Jersey attorney general who raised jurisdictional concerns last year while he was in office. «Isn’t it easier if you don’t have to ask the governor to sign an executive order every time you need one?»
While Pataki moved quickly to ask Port Authority officials to file suit to block a United Arab Emirates company from taking over some operations in the bi-state harbor, his administration has been slow to address what Harvey and others say is a security threat.
Officials in both states say they have been in discussions about possible legislation over the past year. But those talks have yet to yield anything concrete, in part because of the election of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who took office in January.
«The legislation did not ever get fully developed and people are still working on it here,» said Roger Shatzkin, a spokesman for New Jersey Attorney General Zulima V. Farber. «Things got tied up in the transition.»
But officials in the New York State Office of Homeland Security, and in Farber’s office – which handles homeland security for New Jersey – said that, though it is not a permanent solution, the issuance of executive orders by Pataki has been working.
The public should not be given the impression that there is an artificial wall up and down the Hudson River that brings law enforcement to a halt, said James McMahon, director of the New York State Office of Homeland Security. McMahon said, «We’ve had what we think is a very workable fix» through the executive orders.
For all of Harvey’s alarms, McMahon said he would have expected the former attorney general to raise the issue outside the context of a state Senate public hearing, where Harvey very publicly stated his case in March 2005. «I don’t think it was at the top of New Jersey’s pile, either,» he said.
But Harvey said he had been nudging New York State officials to work with New Jersey on a remedy since after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, because of fears that defense lawyers could exploit the gap by charging arrests are invalid.
To date, there haven’t been any such cases, but Harvey said New York’s posture is representative of the hurdles the nation faces in establishing cohesive plans to address homeland security. «Unfortunately, these obvious security measures don’t get the attention they deserve until something catastrophic happens,» Harvey said.
Statistics about the port illustrate its importance to the smooth running of the regional economy. It is the third-largest cargo port in the country, and the No. 1 gateway nationally for petroleum products, helping to supply five states with aviation fuel, gasoline and home heating oil. Forty million people live within 50 miles of it.
«God forbid anything ever happened at the port; the human toll and the economic toll would be unimaginable,» said state Sen. Michael Balboni (R-East Williston), who is chairman of the state Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.
The Senate has created a task force that will explore port security issues, including a secure identification system for workers and better monitoring of cargo containers.
Bill Vorlicek, associate managing director for Kroll Inc., a security consulting firm, said he doesn’t see the urgency in addressing the jurisdictional issue. The Port Authority police have authority on both sides of the Hudson River, he said, and there are other statutes that allow law enforcement to cross into each other’s territory.
«If an officer is pursuing a suspect on the Hudson, he’s not going to stop in the middle of the river,» Vorlicek said.

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