NEW YORK (AP) – From the top of the Empire State Building to the torch at the Statue of Liberty, New York is a city defined by its spectacular landmarks. Ask any of the 41 million tourists who visited last year.

Just don’t ask officials at Homeland Security. To them, the city is devoid of national monuments or icons and undeserving of an increase in anti-terrorism funding – perplexing news that left angry New York politicians attacking the president and demanding that Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff step down.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., charged that the Bush administration had “declared war on New York” with its decision to slash anti-terrorist funding by $83 million – a 40 percent cut – while increases went to cities like Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., and Omaha, Neb.

“I’m not begrudging any other city, but why would you cut the No. 1 target in the country by 40 percent?” said King, who demanded an investigation. “How can you possibly justify that?”

King and other lawmakers challenged the process used to decide New York’s funding level. Federal officials used panels made up of state and local security experts who evaluated the risks in each city before distributing dollars.

Sen. Charles Schumer on Thursday advised President Bush to avoid the city until the administration comes up with some more money to keep New York safe.

“This is wrong and unfair, but also outrageous,” Schumer said. “The bottom line is this is abandoning New York.”

The slashing of funds comes less than five years after the terrorist attack that killed 2,749 people at the World Trade Center, and just a week after a Pakistani immigrant was convicted of conspiring to blow up the subway station at Herald Square.

The busy transportation hub sits below another non-landmark – Macy’s flagship store, one of the world’s most popular shopping destinations.

The angry voices were heard clearly in Washington, where Chertoff defended his agency’s finding that New York had no national monuments or icons. Historic sites like the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge were included on lists involving transportation and commerce, Chertoff said.

Chertoff, in a speech at a Washington think tank, said the funding kept with the city’s average grant amounts in the years since Sept. 11. And he snapped back at those, including Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., who called for his resignation.

“Attacking the secretary personally or threatening the secretary is not a way to drive funding decisions,” said Chertoff, who was savaged by the New York tabloids.

An editorial cartoon in the Daily News compared him with infamous traitor Benedict Arnold. “Terror? What Terror?” asked a mocking front page headline in the New York Post.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was less militant, although he questioned what was happening in Washington.

“I don’t have to list the Brooklyn Bridge, the United Nations and Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building and the Stock Exchange,” Bloomberg said. “So you really wonder what was going through somebody’s mind.”

An assortment of terror plots targeting city landmarks have come up since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The subways are often mentioned for terrorist activity, while other schemes mentioned the United Nations, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the federal building housing local FBI offices.

Times Square remains such a target that former New York FBI head Jim Kallstrom advised revelers to stay home rather than show up there to celebrate the new millennium.

NYPD officials said the drastic slash in federal funding ignored the city’s uncomfortable position as the top target for terrorists to strike. The department was depending on the federal money to:

• Finance an $81.5 million proposal to safeguard Lower Manhattan and parts of midtown with a surveillance “ring of steel” modeled after security measures in London’s financial district.

• Pay half of the $200 million annual cost of heavily armored patrols – called Operation Atlas – and other ongoing security measures, including protection for the nation’s largest mass transit system.

• Provide $38 million for counterterrorism training and equipment, like biological and radioactive detection devices.

One out-of-towner visiting the Empire State Building on Thursday had no problem with the federal cutbacks.

“At some point, you have to stop pouring in money,” said George Kent, 77, of Reno, Nev. “I think the national treasury needs the money.”



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.