NEW YORK – Bomb dogs will screen subway trains for explosives. High-tech cameras will do the same with cars. And a small army of uniformed and plainclothes officers will be in the streets around Madison Square Garden (search).
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) and the city's police commissioner Raymond Kelly outlined a plan on Friday that they hope will achieve two goals: ensure the safety of President Bush and those attending the Republican National Convention (search) Aug. 30-Sept. 2 and minimize commuter headaches.
"The disruption will be a little bit annoying, but minimal," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.
The transportation plan calls for one lane of avenues directly outside Madison Square Garden, site of the convention, to remain open to motorists, except during the approximately 13 hours the convention will be in session. Buses will be rerouted, parking restricted and streets bordering the convention to the north and south will be closed for several blocks.
A restricted area around the arena will be controlled by checkpoints, where police will demand identification from anyone seeking entry. Cars entering the area, including those carrying delegates and dignitaries, will be screened for explosives and other contraband by devices that provide real-time video images of their undercarriages.
Of the 36,500-strong New York City Police Department, 6,000 to 10,000 officers have been assigned to patrol the streets and subways around the convention, including many who will have received training in how to deal with chemical, biological or radiological attacks.
Officials have said that Penn Station, located directly below the arena, will remain open during the convention. The transportation hub serves Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and the city's subway system. Riders could face delays, but no shutdowns, officials said.
Preliminary plans call for state and city police officers — with bomb-sniffing dogs and hand-held chemical detection devices — to board commuter and subway trains one stop before they reach Penn Station during the hours of the convention. The trains will be swept for suspicious packages and checked for terror suspects before being allowed to continue into the station, officials said.
The Lincoln Tunnel, just to the west of the convention site, and the other tunnels and bridges linking Manhattan with other boroughs and will be heavily guarded, but open to usual traffic, authorities said.
"At this point, it appears it will be business as usual," said Tom Kelly, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The traffic plan announced Friday also seeks to accommodate protesters by setting aside demonstration space at the southwest corner of the convention site, Bloomberg said.
"Our first concern is to make sure that everybody is safe and also to make sure that terrorism doesn't strike here, and also that people who want to express themselves get the right to do so, but don't infringe on the right of others," he said.
The city said it expects an anti-war protest by United For Peace and Justice that could draw up to 250,000 people on the eve of the convention. The city is still negotiating with the group over a march route and rally location.
A call to a spokesman for the group was not immediately returned.