The alleged terror attacker near the Port Authority bus terminal might have picked the most heavily policed part of New York City.
The white smoke had just wafted up from the subway grates when the cavalry came in. “Within two minutes, there were cops all over the place,” says Ralph Ledesma, just starting his work day as manager of Gourmet New York Marketplace on 43rd Street.
The influx wasn’t surprising, says Ledesma, whose corner breakfast-and-sandwich spot is no stranger to the mounted police or Hercules counterterror teams assigned to these blocks. It’s the heart of Manhattan. Thousands of commuters pop up from Port Authority and hustle to final destinations. Tourists look up at the sky above Times Square thinking only about cellphone pictures. Yet terror attacks there have been planned and foiled or went wrong.
On Monday morning, there was another one. Brooklyn resident Akayed Ullah, 27, who officials said detonated a low-tech device in the subway corridor between Times Square and the Port Authority, injured himself and a handful of others before being taken into custody. Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were no further credible threats.
He and Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the usually correct and now awfully familiar statements about how New Yorkers wouldn’t stop being New Yorkers. But Ledesma, an adopted New Yorker here over three decades from the Dominican Republic, said it a little more directly: “We’re not gonna let these jerks ruin our lives.”
Commuters and New Yorkers were doing what they usually do on a Monday morning, moving on, and the emergency workers whose lives revolve around these permanent terror target blocks swarmed along an eerily pedestrian-free Eighth Avenue and did what they are there to do, too.
Mike Alasaad, 40, who manages the Chevys on 42nd Street, had been letting emergency personnel in and out all morning. That too wasn’t unusual. NYPD officers often monitor the buildings and highly trafficked area from the roof and upper floors, he said.
Like Ledesma, Alasaad came from elsewhere. He was born in Kuwait. His mother is Palestinian, and he’s married to a Jewish woman he met in the United States. He was giving out free water and coffee to officers all morning. He already had gone through two cases of bottles by 10 a.m.
“They are hard workers,” he said about the officers, his constant neighbors, busy once again. “They need it.”