The arrest last week of former coffee vendor Najibullah Zazi on charges of plotting to attack New York City gives added urgency to the city's pleas for federal funding to deter nuclear attacks, Mayor Bloomberg and area lawmakers said Sunday.
"Despite the incredible job the NYPD is doing, our city does remain a prime target for terrorists," Bloomberg said. "That's a fact. And so we can always use more resources, more technology and more boots on the ground to keep this city safe."
City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and U.S. Rep. Peter King of Long Island joined the mayor in pressing Congress for $40 million for a program to ring the region with sensors to detect radioactive material.
"With additional funding of $40 million that we're looking for, we'll be able to put in permanent, fixed cameras and radiation detection equipment at all the entry points into Manhattan," Kelly said, "and we'll also be able to establish a regional wireless system that will enable all the partners in this program to get notified immediately if in fact radiation material is discovered."
The Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee is considering the act that would fund the program.
‘Our worst nightmares’
Lieberman said the arrest of Zazi is "the realization, unfortunately, of our worst nightmares."
Federal prosecutors say Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant, planned to unleash a terrorist attack on New York City on the Sept. 11 anniversary.
They said Zazi received explosives training from al-Qaida in Pakistan and returned to the U.S. bent on building a bomb. He was arrested in Denver a week ago.
Zazi's lawyer denied the charges.
King said the arrest "really drives home the fact of what a threat New York always faces."
King, Bloomberg and the others spoke at the Citigroup Center on Manhattan's East Side, site of a terrorist plot that was uncovered in 2004.
At a separate news conference, New York Sen. Charles Schumer also urged funding for the radiation-detection program.
"Following 9/11, the federal government correctly put resources into this program," Schumer said. "NYPD is leading the way in implementing this high-tech system, but we need federal funding to provide sufficient resources to finish the job."