Playing out scenarios — and then, a test
In January, about 50 representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation gathered at MTA headquarters to participate in a tabletop exercise to work through what would happen if an incident involving guns and incendiary devices occurred in the MTA’s system.
It was a drill — and it was far more complex than what happened in Brooklyn on Tuesday. It developed a fictionalized scenario involving terrorists on the RFK Bridge, in multiple subway stations and on the railroads — all at the same time. But some of it was awfully familiar — the smoke from a detonated device, the gunshots, the confusion, the victims.
For four hours, officials from multiple agencies worked through what would happen, where their agencies’ weaknesses were, and how they would respond.
According to Michael Balboni, who heads Redland Strategies, a consulting firm that organized the event, MTA chairman and chief executive Janno Lieber observed and asked questions as the heads of each railroad and of New York City Transit worked with their teams as they confronted the challenging situations.
Three months later, the MTA found itself responding in real time to a very different scenario — one that’s harder to prepare for and, in some ways, harder to address.
“It tested the same things that were tested for real in this incident,” Balboni told The Point. “But it’s a different profile. This is the profile that has every infrastructure security professional worried about: A lone wolf, completely, as of right now, unaffiliated, driven by a motivation of anger and rage, who is virtually impossible to detect prior and stop … So this is a response mode, not a prevention mode.”
The response Tuesday, Balboni said, is where the exercise earlier in the year bore some similarities — in how “you eliminate the threat, get people to the hospital, get people to safety.”
MTA spokesman Tim Minton told The Point that the value in the exercise came in bringing together the key players who would respond when an actual crisis occurred.
“It’s the relationships and in some cases the bonds that develop during those periods of time together, without the distractions, that pay dividends when something happens in the wild that can’t be precisely predicted,” Minton said, noting that many of the same officials who gathered for the January exercise were the ones who coordinated Tuesday’s response.
“We had been in the room with them — literally in the room — before,” Minton said. “And there’s no putting a price on what that type of collegial experience can be worth in the moment.”
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Among the big-ticket items that fell out of budget negotiations this year was “extended producer responsibility,” a recycling and waste-reduction effort that would have made companies producing packaging and paper largely responsible for the product through its life cycle.
Both the state Senate, working off a bill sponsored by member Todd Kaminsky, and Gov. Kathy Hochul had versions of the program in their budget proposals.
But the Assembly’s contribution, from Setauket Democrat Steve Englebright, was supposed to be a less industry-friendly and more complete bill, which still is not finished.
“The bill is like 89% done,” said Englebright’s counsel, Stephen Liss, on Wednesday. Part of the remaining work: settling on a better name for the crucial if bureaucratically titled measure.
Other green priorities like extending environmental protections to smaller wetlands made it in the budget, but from the Assembly’s perspective, negotiating EPR out of the budget takes some of the power away from the executive.
Liss says the plan is to get the issue over the finish line this session. Some advocates and lawmakers wanted EPR wrapped up with the budget to prevent a lobbying frenzy.
Then there are other lingering green causes, like revisions to New York’s "Bottle Bill" which has long helped recycle discarded plastic, glass and aluminum containers.
The push for EPR continues.
“We will carry on and seek to get it done this legislative session,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
Liss expressed confidence to The Point on the EPR subject.
“I think the executive wants to do it,” he said. “I know we want to do it.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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A Lee Zeldin campaign effort is tapping into the persistent but unproven Republican talking point of voter fraud.
“We need you to join our election integrity task force!” declared an email sent last week to supporters.
“Now through April 17th, we need our Team Zeldin volunteers to help us with a CRITICAL giant data entry project,” the email explains. “Our team will be working around the clock now and into November to ensure we have fair elections, but we can't do it alone.”
A sign-up link harvests contact information and asks volunteers whether they can bring a laptop, offering time slots. Though the “fair election” rhetoric has similarities to former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 race, Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said that the issue at hand was the petitions which were signed and collected by candidates to get on the ballot in New York. The task force participants “are ensuring that legal signatures are counted, illegal signatures are not, and the law is adhered to,” she said.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano