BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Local leaders are upset that Western New York is being left out of a program that would make the region eligible for more Homeland Security dollars.
News that our area was left out of the Urban Area Security Initiative Program comes at the same time a magazine, believed to be published by Al-Qaeda, says the Buffalo-Niagara region is not preparing for a terrorist attack. In its Spring 2014 issue, “Inspire” called America’s anti-terror strategy “failing and fruitless.”
Rep. Brian Higgins said, “They know about Niagara Falls. They know about the Niagara Power Project. They know that the Peace Bridge is the second-busiest northern border crossing between the United States and Canada.”
Mayor Byron Brown said, “For the Buffalo-Niagara region not to be on the list of communities that are eligible for Urban Area Security Initiative program grants does not make any sense.”
Brown is among a coalition of political leaders and first responders from Erie and Niagara Counties who are sounding the alarm over a loss of federal funding that could leave Western New York vulnerable to a terror attack.
This region used to receive Homeland Security grants through the Urban Area Security Initiative, until it was taken off the program’s list in fiscal year 2013.
Erie County Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr. said, “I know that a lot of people will think that we’re just standing here with our hands out. This is a matter of continuing what has already been established.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz added, “Each and every one of the members of the law enforcement personnel and the emergency services personnel here today work very, very hard to protect the citizens of our region. But their hands can be tied, if they’re not given the resources that we truly deserve.”
The loss of funding is raising a lot of concern in Niagara Falls.
“We play host, every year to millions of visitors. On the U.S. side, about eight million we estimate,” Mayor Paul Dyster said. “If you were a terrorist and you thought, you wanted to have one incident and kill people from 100 different countries, well – you’ve got an even better target base, unfortunately, at the face of Niagara Falls than the finish line of the Boston Marathon.”
Congressman Higgins has written a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, making the case for why Buffalo-Niagara needs funding.
In it, Higgins notes past terrorist plots with connections to Western New York – including the Lackawanna Six cell in 2003.