New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) stood together at ground zero in Manhattan on Wednesday and pledged to cooperate in a stepped-up bi-state effort to protect their citizens against the threat of global terrorism.
Their announcement, came the same day President Obama gave one of the most forceful speeches of his presidency, denouncing the Islamic State’s “network of death” before the United Nations and urging global leaders to join the growing coalition battling the rogue terror group that has seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
The governors, standing together in a tenth-floor atrium at 7 World Trade Center – a room with panoramic views of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza – announced their states would beef up the visible presence of “heavy arms” at critical transportation hubs and tunnels, including subways, commuter rails, and airports. They also said they would increase checkpoints for inspecting commuter’s vehicles and hand-held bags, step up the deployment of bomb-sniffing K-9 units, and double the number of armed National Guard soldiers helping to protect against terror threats, among a number of other increased security measures.
“There's no doubt that these are serious times,” said Governor Cuomo, who, like Governor Christie, is presumed to have presidential ambitions. “The increased tensions with the international terrorist community is undeniable. It's also undeniable that this region is a potential target for offensive activity and retaliation by the terrorist community. We know that. As elected officials, public safety is job one, and our job is to make sure that we're doing everything we can do to be prepared.”
The visibility of such increased security measures, as well as the tone of the president’s U.N. speech and the two governors’ symbolic ground zero announcement, gave residents of New York and New Jersey a particularly stark reminder that the nation is once again at war.
The two states, together with their Homeland Security directors, the FBI, as well as state and local police departments, will also begin a 30-day assessment of their capabilities to respond to specific terror threats. These agencies would gather intelligence and share information, the governors said, as they “begin mapping out an improved, coordinated anti-terrorism plan.”
“I want the people of the region to know that from my perspective, this is something that is absolutely necessary for us to do in light of the new and increased tensions that we know are going on around the world,” Christie said at the Wednesday press conference at 7 World Trade.
“We have seen before that you ignore these increased tensions at the peril of the people you serve," the New Jersey governor continued. “...We want to do everything we can to provide for the most important thing the government provides, which is the public safety of the people.”
The two men have formed a relative political truce: Cuomo has refrained from criticizing the New Jersey governor even as national Democrats attack Christie for his administration’s role in the Bridge-gate scandal. Christie, in turn, who has been wildly successful fundraising as head of the Republican Governors Association, has not offered his considerable campaign prowess to Rob Astorino, the Republican challenger to Cuomo in this November’s general election.
The bi-state agreement was signed by Cuomo and Christie less than two weeks after the governors first announced plans to cooperate, after a top-level security discussion with federal and state officials, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The governors emphasized, however, that there was currently no specific terror threat to the region, despite the increased security measures being planned.
“That shouldn't produce anxiety,” said Cuomo. “If anything that should have a calming effect. It says we're prepared, we're getting ready.”