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NY commuters unfazed by heavily armed terror drill

An NYPD counterterrorism officer watches commuters entering the

An NYPD counterterrorism officer watches commuters entering the subway at Grand Central Terminal Monday. Commuters will see increased police and National Guard presence at New York City transit hubs as part of a security drill Wednesday. (March 29, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Even as news of a second round of deadly bombings this week in Russia hit mobile gadgets during the morning rush, city commuters appeared unperturbed Wednesday as heavily armed law enforcement flooded train stations and subways for a scheduled exercise.

As he waited for a Ronkonkoma train at Penn Station, hockey pads slung over one shoulder, Andre Robitalle, 21, said he'd noticed clusters of heavily armed soldiers at the station.

But Robitalle, a senior engineering student at Hofstra University, said the sight barely registered.

"Obviously, I feel safer because there are more people paying attention to more things," Robitalle said.

"Honestly, I hardly thought about it. It seemed pretty normal. I really didn't worry about it," he said.

City police and transit agencies were out in force at Penn, Grand Central Terminal, Herald Square Station and on subway lines for a "super surge" exercise. Many officers wore the military-style equipment that has become a common sight in New York City: bulletproof vests, camouflage and automatic rifles. Police dogs wearing vests sniffed at commuters.

Lt. Col. Greg Dreisback of the New York State National Guard's Joint Task Force-Empire Shield stood under the clicking departure sign at Penn and described the public's reaction to the increase of troops - he called it "99 percent positive" - as typical.

"This is part of normal day-to-day operations and it's a great mission. I think people love seeing us here," he said.

Dozens of city officers along with Amtrak and MTA police, state National Guard, New Jersey Transit, Port Authority and Transportation Security Administration participated in the exercise.

The drill took on a special significance in the wake of a pair of bombings in a Moscow subway on Monday that killed 39 people. Wednesday, two more bomb attacks in southern Russia, apparently aimed at police, took at least 12 lives.

An NYPD spokesman said Wednesday that the department would have city subways on a higher level of alert through the weekend.

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