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Bus terminal bomb scare leads to arrest of LIC vet

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A longtime resident of a Long Island City veterans shelter has been accused of making a bomb threat that cleared out the Port Authority Bus Terminal for nearly an hour Tuesday, officials said.

Eduard Poplawski, 56, is an adept Mr. Fix-it with a penchant for electronics who one friend at the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence described as “the nicest guy in the world.”

But at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, Poplawski allegedly told a Greyhound bus driver that a bag he left near the police desk in the south wing of the terminal contained a bomb, Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said.

The bus driver immediately informed police, who arrested Poplawski and evacuated the south wing, Coleman said.

The NYPD bomb squad examined the device and discovered that it was merely a cell phone with wires sticking out that connected to a battery.

“It looked close enough to something that we took the precaution of evacuating the bus terminal and calling the bomb squad in,” Coleman said.

Poplawski was charged with falsely reporting an incident, placing a false bomb and unlawful possession of marijuana, Coleman said. He was placed in psychiatric evaluation immediately after the incident and then was expected to be sent to central booking.

The evacuation forced buses to unload onto nearby streets on Manhattan’s West Side near 42nd Street, which blocked traffic and clogged the Lincoln Tunnel.

People were allowed to re-enter the terminal at 9 a.m. and operations returned to normal by around 10 a.m.

Poplawski, a veteran of the Vietnam War, has lived for longer than two years at the Salvation Army’s Borden Avenue Veterans Residence near the Queens Midtown Tunnel, where friends said he was known as “MacGyver,” after the television character, because he was so adept at electronics and mechanics.

“He spends a lot of time tinkering,” said David Jefferson, a shelter resident who served in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. “I haven’t seen him a day without working on something. It’s his therapy. He gets like a CD player or a cassette player — he can fix anything.”

Word of Poplawski’s arrest spread rapidly through the 400-bed shelter Tuesday afternoon, where some said they were surprised by the accusations.

“He was pretty much a happy-go-lucky type of fellow,” said Stacey Davis, who has known Poplawski since he arrived at the shelter. “I never knew him to blow up like that.”

But some residents of the shelter described him as a victim of the veterans’ homeless program, which they claim fails men by leaving them in the shelter without moving them into housing.

“He wouldn’t have been there if they gave him a room,” Jefferson said.

Shelter resident Leon Griffin said he, Poplawski and three others had been transferred on Friday night from Borden Avenue to the Salvation Army’s Kingsboro Men’s Shelter, which accepts people with mental health problems.

Poplawski left Kingsboro later that night and had planned to return Monday because he had a weekend pass, Griffin said.

“He wasn’t pleased, just like none of us was pleased,” Griffin said about Poplawski’s reaction to the placement at Kingsboro. “There was anger on that whole van.”

Al Peck, the director of social services for families and adults at the Salvation Army, said he could not comment on Poplawksi’s case because of his confidentiality rights.

But Peck defended the shelter’s record, saying the average length of stay is only nine months.

“It’s a program that’s been around in the community for a long time, and it’s successfully discharged many men,” Peck said.

Poplawski owned an aged green Cadillac that was parked Tuesday near a loading dock one block away from the shelter, Jefferson said.

An American flag sticker was plastered on the window, and another small flag stuck out of the upholstery inside. The passenger and back seats were riddled with litter and large stacks of bags, boxes and miscellaneous items.

In keeping with his bent for the mechanical, the steering wheel was secured from theft with a makeshift cord fastened by a padlock.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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