By Jennifer Arguinzoni
In commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Energy Supply Task Force joined the NCSL Homeland Security Task Force for a two-and-a half day meeting in New York City. Legislators and legislative staff immersed themselves in issues related to critical infrastructure, security of U.S. rails, ports and air space and emergency management and preparedness.
The trip began with a walking tour and historical briefing of the New York High Line. The High Line is a public park constructed on a former freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Built in the 1930s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement, the High Line lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district.
The next morning, the NCSL group participated in a round table discussion with officials from the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey about how to better secure U.S. rail and air transportation systems, as well as protect the public while providing a passenger-friendly environment. The Port Authority shares responsibility for operating the world’s largest airport system with other agencies at the local, state and federal levels.
“I was privileged to join other members of the NCSL Homeland Security Task Force in touring various venues in New York City recently,” said Kansas Senator Jay Emler (R). “There were excellent briefings by the Port Authority and the Protective Services Advisor from the Department of Homeland Security.”
The group traveled to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn to explore critical infrastructure protection and to discuss the roles of state legislatures. In times of emergency, ensuring that critical utility infrastructure such as electricity, water, and communications are available to citizens can be the difference between triumph and tragedy.
Their final activity was touring the new National Sept. 11 Memorial located at ground zero. The memorial sits on the footprints of former World Trade Center buildings one and two contains the names of the people who perished in the attacks, along with those who died during the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Putting the challenges and consequences of homeland security into perspective, the Sept. 11 Memorial was a fitting capstone to an informative trip.
“Probably the single most poignant briefing and tour was of Ground Zero,” said Emler. “The Task Force had not been to Ground Zero for several years. The transformation was astounding! The amount of thought that has gone into the design and construction of the new facilities at Ground Zero is amazing. It embodies the true spirit of the United States; ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’”
Jennifer Arguinzoni is a policy specialist in NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division in Washington, D.C.