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Boro councilman applauds MTA’s anti-terror spending

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"An intolerable amount of time has already elapsed since Sept. 11 so we're happy to hear that the MTA finally has a plan to harden the transit system against terror attack," said Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the Council's Transportation Committe, at a public hearing at City Hall last Thursday. When Veronique Hakim, general counsel for MTA capital projects, explained that a contract with the Lockheed Martin Corp. to install cameras and motion sensors throughout the subway system would not be finished until late 2008, she came under criticism from several Council members."Sept. 11 was an act of war," said Councilman Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island). "It's disconcerting to hear that it will take at least seven years to see this security system in place.""My main frustration here is that the MTA lacks a sense of urgency," said Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan).After bombings in London last July, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority came under heavy criticism about what many saw as the slow pace to strengthen security in the transit system. The MTA then announced a $212 million contract with Lockheed Martin and held out hope of coming up with a plan using the remainder of $591 million in anti-terrorism funds by the end of 2005."We now have a plan for the $591 million and the projects are ready to go," Hakim said, adding that $450 million has already been contracted out for various projects and the remainder will be contracted out in the next three months.Hakim said installing the cameras and motion sensors for subways was "complex and in uncharted territory" and that the system first had to be designed, then tested. She said the MTA was "moving on a fast track," but offered no other reasons as to why it is taking the agency so long to protect the transit system after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.Dennis Boyd, a Transport Workers Union official, told the committee that the MTA has been "unwilling or unable to recognize 33,000 employees in the subways and buses as a resource" to fight terrorism."The MTA has failed to train personnel and is removing the human element from the huge investments to implement technology-based solutions to protect our mass trains system," Boyd told the committee.At one point, Boyd held up a brochure which he said was included in pay envelopes of transit workers."This was our anti-terrorism training," he said.Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@timesledger.com or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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