Written by: Terence Corcoran
CARMEL — The northern suburbs may not be a prime target for a terrorist attack, but if New York City is hit again, Westchester and Putnam counties could be thrust into major roles, the governor’s appointee for commissioner of homeland security said Friday at a forum for emergency responders.
“We may need to bring resources together from this region, and the only way to do that is to be prepared,” Jerome M. Hauer said at a law enforcement and fire prevention roundtable sponsored by Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, and held at the Paladin Center, a new law enforcement training center housed in the former headquarters of Guideposts magazine.
“If something happens in New York City, people will move north,” Hauer said. “We’ve got to ensure that something happening in the city does not bring you to your knees.”
Hauer, who awaits confirmation on his appointment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to commissioner of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, met with police officers and firefighters from Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties and beyond at the forum. Attendees included officials from the Port Authority Police, MTA Police and New York City Police.
He said that while New York City remains a terrorist target, it’s possible that any plan to damage the city could be hatched in the suburbs.
“Anyone who wants to do harm to New York City is more likely to put together a nefarious act here, where it could be detected (by local law enforcement),” Hauer said in promising to seek more funding for the counties closest to the city.
Among the concerns raised by police brass were increased training requirements for emergency response teams and a decrease in funding to cover personnel costs associated with the training.
Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said his department maintains a large emergency response team but that the training now required by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services is in the area of 140 hours annually for each officer. While those officers are training, Gardner said he has to fill their positions by calling in other cops on overtime, a burden when city finances are so tight.
He asked Hauer to do what he could to increase funding for training on the state and federal levels. Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith, Westchester County police Chief John Hodges and Lt. John Kerwick of the MTA Police expressed similar training concerns.
Ball, who heads the Senate’s Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, praised Cuomo for navigating the bureaucracy of Albany by appointing the right people to high-profile positions. The nomination of Hauer, he said, is a prime example. Hauer served as acting assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2002 to 2003 and, before that, as head of the New York City Office of Emergency Management under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Hauer, a biological warfare expert, promised to return to Putnam County for follow-up seminars. (ARTICLE)