NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said it would be politically impossible for the Obama administration to hold the 9/11 terror trial in Manhattan, something that could cost about $1 billion over a five-year period.
Testifying at a City Council hearing on fire and law enforcement budgets, Kelly said the annual cost of a trial - which legal experts have said could take as long as five years - would be $212 million. The federal government has said it would cover security costs.
"We have no reason to think the trial will be coming to New York," Kelly told Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), chairman of the public safety committee.
Last year's decision by the Obama administration to hold the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Sept. 11 suspects at the Pearl Street courthouse sparked an outcry from politicians, local business and community groups. Critics feared the massive security deployment needed would paralyze much of lower Manhattan.
Reacting to such criticism, the White House earlier this year backpedaled and said it was studying its options, including a military trial, but wouldn't rule out Manhattan. City officials have not heard anything more definitive.
"No final decision on forum [federal court or military commission] or venue has been made at this time. [It] remains a pending matter," Dean Boyd, a Department of Justice spokesman said Thursday.
But Kelly appeared adamant the city would not be the venue. "It is politically impossible for a [New York City] trial to go forward," he told Vallone.
On other security matters, Kelly said the city expected by this summer to connect a number of midtown Manhattan security cameras into the more advanced Lower Manhattan Security Initiative.
Midtown became a surveillance priority after the abortive May 1 Times Square bombing attempt. Pakistani-born U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad is in custody and has been cooperating with investigators following his May 3 arrest in the plot.
Kelly said the lower Manhattan initiative itself has about 700 cameras connected to a command center and he expected that number to grow to 3,000 by the year 2013. The midtown initiative hopes to have a similar number of cameras by then, he said.
Police strength should hit more than 35,700 later this year, thanks to a restoration of funding for new cops, Kelly said.