Times Square to get bollards to stop attacks

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Some old nautical-styled items are going to be incorporated into the modern pedestrian-friendly Times Square to beef up security at a place once targeted for a terrorist attack.

City officials will be putting out bids soon for the installation of decorative and sturdy bollards, steel posts embedded into the ground, to stop vehicles from crashing -- either by accident or on purpose -- into the pedestrian mall at the "Crossroads of the World."

Bollards, originally used on ships and docks as mooring posts to secure lines, started popping up around the city after the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 as a way of keeping car bombs away from municipal buildings. They ring areas around City Hall, the federal court houses and key intersections. They are still used at docks.

When the pedestrian mall areas on the streets of Times Square were first set up, police installed concrete plant holders as temporary impediments to vehicles, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

"We think and agree with design people that this can be done in an effective and more aesthetically pleasing way," he said.

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The plan envisioned by the city Department of Design and Construction is to place the bollards at the edges of the pedestrian zones in the Times Square area at the cross streets to block vehicles. Planners also want low-lying granite security walls that will double as bench seating areas along Seventh Avenue. Bids are being solicited for supplying the items, said a design department spokesman.

"What will emerge will be done in a thoughtful and comprehensive way to protect against both vehicular accidents as well as use of vehicles in a purposeful way," Browne said.

He was referring to vehicle bomb attacks like the one contemplated by Faisal Shahzad in May 2010. Shazad, an American citizen from Pakistan, drove a Nissan Pathfinder west on 45th Street adjacent to the pedestrian mall with the intention of setting off a crude explosive device. The vehicle, packed with 250 pounds of urea-based fertilizer, smoldered but didn't explode. Police later disarmed it. Shahzad was arrested and pleaded guilty to terrorism. He was sentenced to life in prison. He admitted he wanted to maximize his attack's effect by choosing Times Square as a target.

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