NEW YORK – the Fear of a terrorist attack asked officials to ring many of the beautiful plazas of Times Square with the squat steel poles capable of stopping a flying car.
But those barriers only cover so much ground. There was none of them Thursday on the corner where a man sent his car on a busy sidewalk and began barreling through crowds of pedestrians, 23 people and killing one of the metal poles finally stopped him.
The bolder who stopped the car driven by Richard Rojas probably saved lives by preventing the introduction of an even more densely populated pedestrian plaza, and some New Yorkers are wondering whether the barriers should be deployed on many more sidewalks, much as they are now in stadiums and airports in the entire country.
“We can and must do more to keep our residents and visitors safe on our streets and street design is the first place to start,” said Ydanis Rodriguez, a city councilman from Manhattan, who is chairman of the transportation committee. He called for the installation of more bollards to the ends of the city, on pavements in busy areas.
Last year, city officials installed 200 on custom-made bollards in the Times Square area, enlisting the California-based Calpipe Security Bollards for the manufacture of and help with the design of an 8 ½ – inch diameter (22 inch) hunks of metal that are embedded in the ground and spread about 4 feet (1 meter) from each other, said Rob Reiter, the company’s security consultant.
The bollards are equipped with special locks that firefighters can undo, so they can be removed in case of emergency. In Times Square, they are embedded not more than 18 inches (46 cm) in the ground, a necessity in view of the subway station just beneath the surface of the city.
Still, that was enough of an anchor to abruptly stop Rojas, the Honda Accord, which was thrown in the air and the wound on his side, smoking, after performing the in a line of the barriers.
“You always want to make a vehicle hit two barriers; that way, no barrier can fail,” Reiter said. “You need room for two considerations: the vehicle stops and pedestrian.”
Officials of the city not to say how many poles have been installed in the past few years.
In a radio interview Friday with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the police officials are “evaluating” whether there are new security measures, such as the installation of more poles are necessary.
“And we are going to look to Times Square and see — of course, we look at some other important locations as we do different things in our approach,” he said.
Joseph Rosetti, vice chairman of the Guidepost Solutions, a security consulting firm, said bollards was the ‘in vogue’ thing in the past few decades, after a series of incidents in which disgruntled employees crashed their cars in the lobbies of office buildings.
They have since become ubiquitous — some even look like flower planters — although Rosetti warned that there is no way to fully reinforce it, a heavily trafficked public place, like Times Square, to notice that some people have even called for the abolition of the traffic in the Crossroads of the World.
“There is always a balance between security and try to facilitate the trade,” he said.
Defence against vehicle attacks have gotten extra attention in the past year as a result of terrorist attacks in England, Germany and France by people who rode vehicles in the hustle and bustle.
Rojas, the director in the Times Square incident, made his first appearance Friday.
He is accused of murder and attempted murder.
He could not for a means of was held without bail. His lawyer didn’t comment.