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NYC commuters 'used to this stuff'

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officer keeps watch

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officer keeps watch as people move through Grand Central Station in New York. (May 6, 2011) Credit: AFP/Getty Images

New Yorkers are a resilient bunch, not easily intimidated -- even by talk of a potential al-Qaida attack on an unspecified U.S. railway system in the wake of the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Hearing the news, railroad riders shrugged it off Friday.

One Amtrak rider from New York, Joseph Mangan, 51, said the only thing that would keep him from riding the train would be "no bar car."

As he waited in Penn Station for an Amtrak train to Boston, Mangan was asked if the threat concerned him. "Not anymore than it ever has," the Spanish Harlem resident said. "We're New Yorkers. We're used to this stuff."

Questioned Friday, a large number of riders -- Amtrak riders, New York City Transit riders, Long Island Rail Road riders, New Jersey Transit riders -- told Newsday this terror talk is always in the back of their minds.

But none of it was going to stop them from riding the rails.

Attorney Lloyd Berko, 37, said he feels "no less safe or safer than I did a week ago."

"The threat is always out there," Berko, of East Meadow, said as he waited for a train at the LIRR station in Mineola.

"It's been in our consciousness since Sept. 11, and I don't think that's changed. If it's not bin Laden, it's going to be somebody else that's looking to do something."

And New York University student Greg Brown, 19, said he is comforted by the constant presence of MTA police on the LIRR system.

"I do feel safe," Brown, of Williston Park, said.

A tourist aboard a subway train in Manhattan said while the reports concerned him, they were "not enough to get me to stop taking trains."

"I was worried about visiting New York City in general because it's the ground zero of terrorism," Aaron Dolores, 30, of Oakland, Calif., said as he rode an N train Friday. "But you can't just stop living."

That sentiment was echoed Friday by Piotr Trzaska, 29, of Copiague, who took the LIRR to work in midtown.

He said terror attacks "can happen anywhere in the world. I don't think New Yorkers should be overthinking the problem. Just live day by day."

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) told Newsday Friday he believes the potential plot outlined in documents seized from the bin Laden compound were "a rambling aspiration" and nothing more. But, he said, they should serve as "a wake-up call, a reminder" that we need to remain vigilant. And, he said, when it comes to mass transit, riders are the first line of defense against terrorism.

He pointed to the familiar "If you see something, say something" campaign, reminding riders to report anything suspicious to the authorities.

Riders agreed.

Jackmine Jean-Pierre, 25, of Roslyn, a private-school teacher traveling into Penn Station said: "I just keep in my mind that whole 'See something, say something.' If I could foresee a situation happening, I try to avoid it as much as possible."

Sean Talisman, 32, traveled by train from Riverhead, where he lives, to Mineola to meet up with his brother. He, too, said news of bin Laden's potential train attack did not rattle him.

"Now that the plot's been exposed, it would be very conspicuous for them [al-Qaida] to try and attempt something," he said.

Addison LeMay, 40, said he was confident terrorists would not be capable of pulling off an attack on the transit system.

"I think it's overblown," Lemay, an actor and filmmaker living in Smithtown, said. "They got one good shot at us in how many years?"

But Mario Tinis, an engineer from East Meadow, said that while he did not feel in any more danger than usual riding the LIRR, he was skeptical about law enforcement's ability to protect commuters.

"I think if they want to do it, you can't stop them," Tinis, 53, said. He added that while security might be tight in Penn Station, suburban stations, like Mineola, remain vulnerable. "With so many lines, somebody can put something anywhere, and you cannot touch them . . . I think the only way you can stop them is through intelligence, and finding them before they do anything. Otherwise, it's too late."

Still, for most riders, the idea of some new threat was news to be shrugged off.

As Rohit Biswas, 21, of South Amboy, N.J., said as he rushed to catch a New Jersey Transit train: "We're so used to it. We've been hearing about it for 10 years . . . It's kind of the Loch Ness monster at this point."

Beth Dunn, 39, of Cape Cod, Mass., a novelist who took Amtrak to Manhattan to meet with her publisher, said the only thing that would keep her off a train would be "an actual explicit threat," one which was specific and immediate.

"It's got to be something serious to keep me from missing New York," she said.

With Emily Ngo

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