Volume 75, Number 41 | March 1 -7 2006

Villager photo by Ramin Talaie

From left, at City Hall press conference, Oliver Koppell, Michael Nelson, Miguel Martinez, Jerrold Nadler and Alan Gerson.

Councilmembers and Nadler blast Bush on ports plan

By Alex Schmidt

Amid bipartisan uproar surrounding a deal that would put six U.S. ports under control of a United Arab Emirates company, a group of New York City councilmembers came forward on Monday with some of the strongest language yet against the deal.

“It’s nuts and it shouldn’t happen,” said Bronx Councilmember Oliver Koppell in a press conference at City Hall on Monday. “Do we not remember 9/11?”

Koppell, along with Councilmembers Alan Gerson, Gale Brewer, Michael Nelson, David Weprin, Miguel Martinez and Peter Vallone Jr., have introduced a resolution denouncing President Bush’s approval of the deal.

Joining the councilmembers at the press conference, Congressman Jerrold Nadler said the needs of port security against terrorism in today’s world have changed.

“What worked before 9/11 no longer works,” Nadler said.

The deal places port security for Manhattan’s cruise ship terminal, Newark’s container port and terminals in Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia with the U.A.E. company Dubai Ports World. The plan has led to an introduction of bipartisan-sponsored emergency legislation to suspend the company’s acquisition of the operation of the ports, as well as legislation that would permanently prohibit companies owned and operated by foreign governments from purchasing port operations in the United States.

As it stands, senators have been successful in obtaining a 45-day security review of the deal, after which President Bush will have the opportunity to authorize or reject the agreement. Bush, however, has expressed his continued faith in the safety of he deal.

The New York City councilmembers’ resolution denounces Bush’s decision in what Brewer called “very strong” terms, citing the federal 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that the United Arab Emirates presents “a persistent counterterrorism problem.” The resolution also points to the 9/11 Commission’s finding that the U.A.E. has played a critical role in terrorists’ travel and financing.

The councilmembers’ words at the press conference were all the more fervent because, as Nadler pointed out, New York has the most intimate knowledge of the terrorist threat. Nadler said that Congress is sensitive to local opinion and that resolutions like this one can have an effect. He conveyed his hope that New York City’s action would propel other cities to adopt similar resolutions. Councilmember Gerson said he expected City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to be sympathetic and that the resolution would have the full backing of the Council.

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