NEW YORK – New York’s subways went back to normal Monday afternoon – or as close to normal as they ever get – after a high-alert weekend when an army of police officers prepared for a bombing that never happened.

“The period of the threat now seems to be passing,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday. “Over the immediate future we’ll slowly be winding down the enhanced security.”

Police checked bags and prepared for the worst after an Iraqi informant said last week that terrorists were planning to sneak remote-controlled bombs on the subway Sunday in briefcases and strollers.

Officials in Washington downplayed the threat and questioned its veracity, but Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said they responded the right way – and will do it again. “This was a very serious threat,” Kelly said. “We did precisely what we should have done. In a similar situation, we will do exactly the same thing.”

Police cars with lights flashing were stationed outside subway stations during Monday’s morning rush, while cops watched passengers entering the turnstiles underground.

Some straphangers said a strong police presence made them feel safer – and they didn’t want it to end.

“They should keep going,” said Jose Vargas, 29, of the Bronx. “If they get a threat like that, why would they ever stop with the protection?”

The true nature of the threat remained murky Monday. Three suspects arrested in Iraq denied any terrorists were plotting in New York and passed lie detector tests, sources said.

Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer said Bloomberg and Kelly should now explain what really happened.

“No threat against residents of this city should ever be treated lightly,” Ferrer said. “It’s the job of the mayor and the police commissioner to tell us exactly what led them to sound the alarm.”

Meanwhile, the NYPD has been testing new bomb-detection devices that sniff for explosives residue and are similar to devices used in Iraq.

Police are being trained to use the devices this month and are seeing whether they work fast enough to be used for subway bag searches without bringing commuters to a crawl, Kelly said.

Police also shut down part of the Herald Square station Monday for more than an hour after a cardboard UPS box was left on a platform. Bomb squad detectives X-rayed the package and found it was full of paper.

“We’re all going to still ride the train,” said Sheila Hardy, 60, of Sheepshead Bay, who wasn’t fazed when she saw the station full of cops and firefighters. “We have to go on with our lives.”

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