Today’s news:

Airport security tightened in boro after terror alert

Security at the borough’s airports and major crossings was increased this week following the federal government’s decision to raise the terrorism-alert level for the nation as tensions escalated over a possible war against Iraq.

The Office of Homeland Security Friday raised the threat level to orange nationwide, indicating there was a high risk of a terrorist attack. Although the city’s level was already at orange, local officials quickly responded to the increased threat by boosting security at key locations.

In Queens, some of the most notable changes were at the two airports.

The change in nationwide threat level resulted in greater protection for terminals at both Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

The 300-foot rule, which prohibits public parking within 300 feet of terminals, was reinstated at the airports, said Mark Hatfield, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

The change led to a loss of about 900 parking spaces at LaGuardia and as many as 500 spots at Kennedy, Hatfield said.

Random searches at passenger checkpoints, identification checks for airport employees and uniformed law enforcement’s presence were also being boosted at the airports, Hatfield said.

“There are many more things we’re doing that we’re not giving details on,” he said.

Although police officials declined to discuss security at bridges and tunnels, officers were more visible at the checkpoints at the borough’s major crossings covering the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the Triborough Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, the Whitestone Bridge, the Throgs Neck Bridge, and the Cross Bay Bridge.

Frank Pascual, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Division of Bridges and Tunnels, confirmed that security had been tightened at all of the MTA’s crossings, which include all extending to Queens except the Queensboro Bridge, but could not further discuss the situation.

For most of Queens the new terror alert did not produce heightened security but a continuation of precautions adopted since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, said security at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens was being strengthened.

“We are in the process of taking additional measures,” Andrews said.

Marshall made the decision several months ago in response to rumors about a possible terrorist attack against Borough Hall, Andrews said.

Likewise many of the borough’s synagogues have changed their security policies since Sept. 11.

Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills has installed several security cameras in recent months, said Ronald Kain, the temple’s treasurer.

“People take things for granted — they say it’s not going to happen here,” Chodosh said. “They said the same thing about the Twin Towers.”

Unlike cultural institutions in Manhattan, which have been identified as possible terrorist targets, museums in Queens reported no extra security measures in light of a possible attack.

MoMA QNS in Long Island City was expecting tight security when its “Matisse Picasso” exhibition opens Thursday, but the precautions were due to the expensive artworks and not terrorist threats, a spokeswoman with the museum said.

Reporter Courtney Dentch contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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