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Long IslandPolitics

Presidential debate security may cost up to $2M, officials say

Preparations were underway at Hofstra University on Tuesday,

Preparations were underway at Hofstra University on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, for the planned Sept. 26 presidential debate at the school's Hempstead campus. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Some 10,000 demonstrators are expected to converge on Hofstra University for Monday’s presidential debate, and Nassau County officials estimate security will cost taxpayers up to $2 million, officials said Wednesday.

More than 1,000 police officers will be dispatched to the campus and surrounding area — including a so-called “free speech zone” for demonstrators on the South Campus, across Hempstead Turnpike from the Davis S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Hall — where the debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump will take place starting at 9 p.m.

A number of road closures are planned in and around the campus on Monday, including the shutdown of Hempstead Turnpike from Oak Street to Merrick Avenue beginning at 11:30 a.m. through midnight, officials said. Oak Street will be closed from Hempstead Turnpike north to Westbury Boulevard, officials said.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano asked for the public’s patience.

“In the times that we live in, heightened police presence, preparation and security is job one,” Mangano said. “It’s taking more resources than ever before, but the county is committing those resources to this debate.”

Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, calling the election “divisive” and rife with “inflammatory conduct,” told reporters during a news conference on the campus Wednesday that the police plan is to try to keep opposing protesters in separate areas to avoid conflict.

“We’ll segregate the groups in order not to pour gasoline on a fire,” Krumpter said.

Everyone entering the protest area will be screened — an additional security precaution in comparison to the recent Trump rally in Bethpage — Krumpter said, and backpacks, any weapons, bicycles, mace and pepper spray, selfie sticks and a number of other items will be prohibited.

Krumpter asked the public to alert police if anyone sees anything suspicious and said most trash cans around campus and in the free speech area will be removed, with an eye toward preventing a terrorist attack such as the explosive devices planted in Manhattan and New Jersey last week.

Krumpter estimated the county’s total cost of the debate to be between $1.5 million to $2 million, including costs from police, Department of Public Works, Office of Emergency Management and the county fire marshal’s office.

Krumpter said officers from every unit of the police department, as well as law enforcement including the Secret Service, the FBI, ATF and others from around the region — including the Suffolk County Police Department, state troopers and the NYPD — will have a presence at Hofstra.

Krumpter referenced the department’s relatively short planning time — the school was only notified this summer that it would be hosting the debate — calling it a “significant lift,” but said the experience of Hofstra hosting presidential debates in 2012 and 2008 allowed the department to get prepared relatively quickly.

In a statement, Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said the university is grateful to Mangano, Krumpter, Nassau police “and all the men and women who serve the public for their service and dedication to ensuring that this historic debate can take place in a secure and peaceful environment for our community and our students.”

Hofstra was selected to host this year’s debate — the only university to serve as the site for three consecutive presidential debates — in July, by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, when Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, backed out, citing concerns about security and finances.


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