Raising the specter of a nuclear blast in Manhattan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday insisted that the federal government start pumping a significant amount of money to help the city defend against nuclear terrorism.
Bloomberg was sitting next to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a security meeting in Manhattan as he challenged the Obama administration to come up with a federal funding formula that gives the city its due as a major terrorism target.
The mayor wants the administration to reject what he called "pork" politics and instead determine funding on the threat risk. Bloomberg specifically asked that the government restore funding in fiscal year 2011 for a program to pay for radiation detectors ringing New York City, including some on Long Island.
"We certainly think of ourselves as being in the crosshairs, that is just a fact," Bloomberg told a meeting of Napolitano's homeland security adviser council. "And I challenge the department to continue to work to devise a homeland security funding formula that takes this fact into higher consideration."
To make the point, Bloomberg said a nuclear device, such as a dirty bomb, would wreak havoc.
"We can't nickel-and-dime the best hope we have for preventing the worst possible calamity. The explosion of a nuclear device could cost thousands of lives, devastate our national economy and plunge us into further conflicts overseas. We have just got to start taking this threat seriously," Bloomberg told the gathering of public officials, academics and business leaders.
"For us to do that, this federal government must take New York City seriously and give us the resources we need to protect what clearly is the terrorists' No. 1 target," he added.
"I agree with the mayor," Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) told Newsday. "The thought of a dirty bomb going off . . . it would be a disaster in many ways more long-lasting than Sept. 11."
Bloomberg's pointed remarks came a day after federal intelligence officials said it was likely that al-Qaida would try and mount an attack against the United States in the next six months.
The radiation detector program is seen by law enforcement officials as critical to the city's defenses. The White House's latest budget for fiscal year 2011 doesn't fund the program. The White House last year also didn't want to fund the detector program, but wrangling in Congress by King and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) got $20 million authorized.
Napolitano didn't respond to Bloomberg's statement except to thank him for his views.