The head of the Port Authority police union says Governor Andrew Cuomo is treating the state police as his own private army. Zack Fink filed the following report.
On Friday, a New York State trooper pulled over a driver on the West Side Highway. This is not something New Yorkers have been accustomed to seeing, but under Governor Andrew Cuomo, it's been happening quite a bit lately.
Property on Church Street in Lower Manhattan is being refurbished for a new trooper barracks just blocks from One Police Plaza, meaning troopers are expected to become a more permanent force in the city, and that has rubbed some other law enforcement agencies the wrong way. And they're making an explosive charge: they think the increased trooper presence is an expansion of Cuomo's ego.
"It looks like the Praetorian Guard to me," said Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association. "Hey, like I said, they are a great outfit. They do a great job. They belong doing state police work and not the work of the NYPD, the Port Authority, the MTA."
The trooper presence has also been beefed up Kennedy Airport. Last summer, panic was set off when travelers falsely believed a gun had been fired.
Cuomo was asked about it earlier this month.
"It was even worse at the airport. Because there, the first responders themselves panicked," Cuomo said. "We've been training the first responders. We have State police there and they have been conducting specialized training."
"First responders are police officers, firefighters, EMS. We don't panic. We're the police," Nunziato said.
Nunziato says his officers are better trained to deal with crowds since they patrol primarily transit facilities that move half a billion people a year. He says it's insulting to suggest his officers need training from troopers.
"I know the state police get extra pay for coming down to the city," he said. "The other factor is they are coming down from upstate, where the crime rate is actually higher. I saw them writing tickets on the West Side Highway. New York City is one of the biggest police departmenets in the world. They know how to police."
In a statement, the Cuomo administration says "After recent events, it should be clear to everyone that safety is more important than someone's fragile ego." They added that trooper levels have remained consistent upstate.
Insiders say the decision to bring troopers into the airports came after the Fort Lauderdale shooting in January. There had been discussions of adding troopers there even before that.