When the City Becomes the Carceral

In today’s New York Times, there was a depressing story about the ongoing, and strategic, public incarceration of the new “World Trade Center” area before it is even officially open to the public.  Where once the citizenry roamed with wild and interested abandon in the area, the Police State have now taken over with barricades and station houses and checkpoints.

The Police Department has proposed encircling the site with a fortified palisade of guard booths, vehicle barricades and sidewalk barriers. And neighbors and planners worry that the trade center will once again feel cut off from its surroundings, a place where security credentials prevail, traffic is unwelcome and every step is scrutinized, as at the New York Stock Exchange or 1 Police Plaza security zones.

The police plan calls for nine guard booths, each about 6 by 12 feet in area and 11 feet tall. Eight street intersections would be restricted by a double barricade system known as a sally port, from 30 to 160 feet long. The trade center site would also be bounded by bollards, the barrier posts that have cropped up around many important structures since 2001.

What mystifies me is how these threats to One World Trade and One Police Plaza and the Stock Exchange so heavily rely on a threat coming from a wheeled vehicle.

It’s as if the security experts have forgotten the threats from airplanes in the sky crashing into towers and pressure cooker bombs in book bags during marathons.  Do they not think some sort of improvised drone will soon be an easy method of attack piloted from a nearby office building?

These barricades are all part of the security drama scenery that has now besotted USA security thinking against terrorism.  If we show our big guns, and if we have lots of checkpoints, and if we make it really hard for the innocent people to even get near our most precious buildings, then we’ll all feel safer until the next time we get hit — and then we’ll just put up more barricades and deeper restrictions until we force ourselves to feel safe again — until the next time we get hit…