Much of Lower Manhattan on Sunday was a “frozen zone,” with barricades thrown up for blocks around the World Trade Center, police officers with binoculars scanning rooftops for snipers, and Coast Guard ships patrolling the Hudson. West Street, usually roaring with the sounds of cars and trucks emerging from the Battery Tunnel, was a carless canyon. Coffee shops and pizza parlors stood empty, aside from the occasional cop catching a quick bite to eat.
Outside the frozen zone, New York’s usual carnival of tourists, street preachers and the mentally deranged were joined by nearly 200 9/11 “Truthers,” a small gang from Fred Phelps’ church and 150 or so people organized by the blogger Pamela Geller to “stop the Islamization of America.”
Why can’t you make them shut up? somebody asked one NYPD officer at a barricade across the street.
“If I had a Taser, I would,” he replied with a laugh.
Today was extraordinary, but officers like him will be part of Lower Manhattan’s new normal, as a new World Trade Center precinct with 600-plus officers patrols the area.
The local community board chair, Julie Menin, calls that police presence, and all its attendant inconveniences, “a burden — but one we’ve had to learn to accept.”
On Sunday, for one day at least, the many layers of protection between the outside world and the 9/11 Memorial Plaza seemed less like a burden and more like a blanket. The day after Bin Laden died, the police officers in this neighborhood walked the streets with a swagger. But today the NYPD, the Port Authority police, the state police, the park rangers, the Secret Service — all walked with a bearing that seemed to say they knew this shift was more than just a job.