New Security Chief To Boost Security At NY Airports

March 30, 2012

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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plans to consolidate security responsibility under one officer, officials said, a move aimed at strengthening security and accountability across the agency.

The new chief security officer will oversee security for the World Trade Centre site and all of the Port Authority's airports, ports, bridges and tunnels and commuter PATH system.

The individual, to be chosen after a national search, also will have operational control of the authority's police department.

The decision to create the post comes after a review conducted by a firm co-founded by Michael Chertoff, former secretary of the US Department of Security.

"This review was not conceived because of any crisis that emerged or a specific threat," Chertoff told a news conference. Instead, it was done "to take a calm look at what has worked and what has not."

The Port Authority has spent billions of dollars hardening its security since the September 11, 2011 attacks. But the role of protecting individual facilities has mostly been handled by managers at each site since the mid-1960s.

Chertoff declined to detail what specific problems the new official would correct. But he said some investments in technology did not match what was actually required.

The current system created unnecessary risks, Chertoff said, adding: "What was surprising to me was the lack of any central security and accountability across the agency."

Port Authority police officers previously have complained about security problems, including a large hole in a fence around Kennedy Airport.

Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, said the security flaws included delays and complexity of communication among different officials in charge of security.

The airports, for example, have Transportation Security Administration workers screening passengers.

"You have several different groups doing security outside of the police and John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport have different camera systems," Nunziato said.

As a result, calls alerting the police to problems spotted by people monitoring cameras have to be channeled through several levels before reaching the police. "That tells you something is wrong," the union president said.