Above ground, within feet of the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan, lies a busy neighborhood of 310,000 workers, 60,000 residents and 8,400 businesses. Below ground, beneath the Fed, lies the largest accumulation of gold bullion in the world—priceless ingots belonging to governments, central banks and other international entities.
On Wednesday, says the New York Police Department, a person named Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis packed a van with 1,000 pounds of what he thought were explosives and parked it next to the bank with the intention of blowing the place to kingdom come. This is not what you want to hear if—like me—you happen to live almost across the street.
All of us owe NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the Feds a thunderous round of applause for deftly foiling yet another murderous plot. So far, they have been brilliant at keeping us safe. But there are questions regarding the neighborhood as we look to the future: How much security is enough security? How much is too much?
Lower Manhattan today is a mixed-use, 24-hour kind of place, full of kids, dogs, students, schools, shops, restaurants, grocery stores, museums and more than 10 million tourists a year. But it also has far more than its share of traffic checkpoints, street closures and tight building security. And security-related delays could get even worse when the World Trade Center is finally rebuilt. Again, the reasons for this are obvious.
Yet as a flourishing international business district, downtown needs to pulsate with human energy, including foot and vehicular traffic that moves freely. Is this even possible now in a world of potential truck bombers lurking in the shadows?
It has to be. I hope the NYPD has some ideas about how safety and freedom can coexist. This is a dialogue that needs to continue.