NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Part of the plan to keep Pope Francis safe during his New York City visit is to create a safety net so tight that hundreds of thousands of rush hour commuters might need divine intervention to get home.
Counter-sniper teams, frozen zones for cars and pedestrians and radiation detectors are expected. CBS2’s Marcia Kramer has learned there’s even a request for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to shut down Midtown trains.
Kramer was told exclusive details about what officials say is “unprecedented” security for the papal visit.
Penn Station is the busiest train station in North America, with some 600,000 commuters using the six subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit and Amtrak. So Pope Francis’ plan to offer Mass right above the station at Madison Square Garden at 6 p.m. on Sept. 25, right in the middle of rush hour, has law enforcment officials on hyper drive, worried about terrorism.
“You could potentially put some sort of bomb, explosive device there,” security expert manny Gomez told Kramer.
Sources told CBS2 that officials are working on a plan to close station entrances and have trains bypass Penn Station while the pope is there. It will be similar to the plan used during the 2004 Republican convention when President George W. Bush spoke. That time, police closed:
* Both entrances to Amtrak on Eighth Avenue, at 31st and at 33rd streets
* The two entrances in the middle of the block — the old taxiway
* All four subway entrances on Eighth and 33rd for the A, C and E trains
Federal, state and local officials have been working with the Swiss Guard since January on plans to protect the pope. Sources told CBS2 the unprecedented measures will include:
* Sniper teams with long rifles on rooftops
* Massive frozen zones for vehicular and pedestrian traffic
* No truck traffic and no parking before and during events
* Cameras and radiation detectors
* Helicopter to look for gunmen
* A hunt for drones
“That’s a real concern for us. (Pope Francis) is a different knid of person. He likes to get out and be with people and so we’re going to be monitoring the airspace for any drone activity,” NYPD Deputy Chief Salvatore DiPace said.
And while so far there has been no specific thrat, officials are worred about ISIS, al Qaeda and lone wolves, Kramer reported.
“If and when pope gets out of his already exposd vehicle and tries to mingle with the crowd, could there potentially be somebody there that is set on hurting him — that’s the wild card law enforcement can’t anticipate,” Gomez said.
As the pope’s visit approaches, sources told Kramer the NYPD will conduct random bomb sweeps at all the locations the Holy Father is scheduled to be at.
And while Penn Station will be a challenge to negotiate, the LIRR will add extra trains for people who want to attend the Mass.
Pope Francis will be in New York from Sept. 24-26, Kramer reported.