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Paterson: War of words could imperil public safety

New York State Governor David Paterson holds a

New York State Governor David Paterson holds a town hall meeting in downtown Brooklyn to discuss the budget. (March 8, 2010) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The safety of New Yorkers, and all Americans, is too important to be clouded by a public squabble between government agencies and officials, Gov. David A. Paterson said Saturday.

The governor was responding to a war of words between Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and congressional representatives from New York over what elected officials perceive is a cut in anti-terrorism funds by the Obama administration.

In a statement, Paterson called on federal officials "to work with the New York congressional delegation, my office of homeland security and the mayor's office to come to a mutual resolution on this dispute."

Paterson added the May 1 attempted car bombing in Times Square "clearly demonstrated our security is still threatened and we must work together to remain vigilant."

On Friday, Napolitano released a letter sent to Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and intended for other New York lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who have complained about a cut in anti-terror funding.

The DHS says New York's overall funding of $245 million is 24 percent higher than last year's - and comes on top of previous grants that remain unspent. Specifically, Napolitano highlighted $275 million in federal funding for New York City's port and transit security since 2006 that has not been spent, and that the state had not used any of the transit funding it received last year.

Paterson did not respond directly to Napolitano's assertion about unspent funds Saturday. Instead, he said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the front line of national security has shifted to local and state law enforcement, and as a result, "we need to maintain a strong partnership with the federal government, including sustained and predictable funding."

According to the state comptroller's office, the Port Authority had yet to use a 2007 transit grant of $141,000, and a 2008 transit grant of $663,000.

King said Friday Napolitano was making a "phony argument" because DHS bureaucracy caused delays in spending the money.

Saturday, a Port Authority spokesman declined to comment on the spending delays.

Jeffrey Soffin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, echoed the charges made by King. "Any money that was supposed to come to us that we haven't spent is held up by [Homeland Security]," he said.

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