June 7, 1999
Web posted at: 8:32 p.m. EDT (0032 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) — The only U.S. city to be targeted in recent years by international terrorists has set up what it calls the nation’s leading anti-terrorist response center.
On Monday, New York opened a $13 million Emergency Operations Center. The 50,000-square-foot facility is in lower Manhattan, in a building right across the street from the World Trade Center, which Islamic militants bombed in February 1993.
The center, which will be staffed round-the-clock, will be where city leaders meet if there’s ever another man-made act of terror. It will be used for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, heat waves and blackouts as well.
"The city is better prepared than it ever has been in its history," said Jerry Hauer, director of the center.
The facility’s command center is on the 23rd floor. Its walls are reinforced to withstand wind gusts of up to 160 miles per hour. It’s also bulletproof and bomb-resistant, with its own air supply, an 11,000 gallon water supply and three backup generators.
Despite its hardened shell, Hauer said the center would have been built regardless of terrorism threats.
"I think biological terrorism is a threat, but it’s not as great as we sometimes hear," Hauer said. But he adds, "This is not a bunker."
Still, Hauer says the new center means New York City is now ahead of the rest of nation in being able to handle terrorism.
"Particularly when it comes to biological terrorism, no city is where we’re at," he said.
The center was launched Monday with a 24-hour drill for a mock biological terrorist attack. Many city, state, and federal agency officials were on hand and the center earned high marks from at least one military leader.
"I think this is an excellent facility here," said U.S. Army Col. Robert Fitton.
New York is not alone is preparing for a possible response to a large-scale emergency. The Pentagon is helping 120 of the nation’s largest cities beef up their defenses against possible use of weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. anti-terrorism spending will exceed $10 billion over the next fiscal year, a 44 percent jump in a year’s time.