NEW YORK — The Port Authority Bus Terminal here has reopened after a 27-year-old male has been taken into custody following an early morning explosion in the area.
The suspect, Akayed Ullah, is being treated for severe burns that occurred after the pipe bomb that was strapped on him detonated at 7:20 a.m. The New York Fire Department is reporting a total of four injuries — including Ullah — none of which are life-threatening. The incident was being investigated as a possible terrorist incident.
Observers watching surveillance video of the explosion posted by the New York Police Department noted more than once, “No, he never took his hand out of his pocket.”
At a press briefing, NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill said a thorough background investigation on Ullah is currently being conducted by the Joint Terrorist Task Force. He said, “This is New York City, we don’t live in fear. But if you see something suspicious you have an obligation to come forward and tell us.”
The explosion happened in a passageway between Seventh and Eighth Avenues that connects the 1,2, 3 and Times Square Shuttle subway trains. The Port Authority and Times Square subway hubs are major transportation arteries for the city. On a daily basis, 200,000 people pass through the Port Authority, the world’s busiest bus terminal. Nearly 8,000 buses arrive in New York from New Jersey and the northern New York suburbs. The 67-year-old Port Authority building, like Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, does not have airport-worthy security.
In response to Monday’s incident, NYPD will be more present at all major transit hubs and major sites in the city. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said security is being beefed up at airports, bridges, tunnels, and mass transit systems and additional personnel are being deployed to high-density areas and large public gatherings as a precaution, not as a response to any other threat.
At the briefing, Cuomo said that by early afternoon, train and bus service had been restored — although Eighth Avenue subways were still bypassing the 42nd Street station and the Shuttle is not running. “This is New York,” Cuomo said. “The reality is that we are a target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy, against freedom. We are the Statue of Liberty in our harbor. And that makes us an international target, we understand that. With the internet now, anyone can go on the internet, and download garbage and vileness on how to put together an amateur level explosive device, and that is a reality that we live with. Let’s go back to work. We are not going to allow them to disrupt us. That’s exactly what they want and that is exactly what they’re not going to get.”
Two hundred NYFD firefighters and officials were still on the scene Monday morning more than two hours after the 7:19 a.m. emergency call was first placed. The smell of burnt rubber remained in the air. As six helicopters hovered overhead, scores of police officers, firefighters and counter-terrorism officials and other investigators were on the scene. About 70 fire engines, EMT vehicles and NYFD vehicles lined Eighth Avenue.
No cars on the FDR Drive were allowed to exit from 59th Street to 42nd Street Monday morning. In addition, from 48th Street to 40th Street, vehicular traffic was closed from 45th Streets to 40th Streets.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said two of the other three injured individuals went to Mount Sinai West Hospital and the third to Mount Sinai Queens with minor injuries such as “ringing in the ears and headaches.”
The New York Times headquarters on Eighth Avenue remained open throughout the incident, although employees were alerted around 8 a.m. and were urged to delay their commute, according to a company spokeswoman. Staffers will be updated again when the situation is resolved, she added.
Commuters making their way to work via the subway and Port Authority-bound buses faced a long commute with numerous lines suspended, and others bypassing Port Authority and Times Square. At one point, Port Authority buses were dropping passengers at Tenth Avenue and West 40th Street. But just a few blocks east in Times Square, the morning buzz was seemingly normal with commuters dodging more gingerly paced tourists and numerous stores already open for business. All employees at H&M’s 42,000-square-foot Times Square store were accounted for and the location opened for business at the normal start time of 8 a.m., a company spokeswoman said.
Troy Williams, a security official who works in the Times Square area, said, “Keep walking, keep operating, keep doing what you normally do. Just be a little more vigilant of what’s going on. That’s the only way, because they want to disrupt the city. They want to keep people in fear by doing these things. And it’s not going to stop us.”
NYPD also increased security in and around Grand Central Station Monday afternoon.
At the end of the day, Cuomo directed the lights of One World Trade Center’s 408-foot spire be lit red, white and blue Monday night “as a symbol of our essential values of freedom and democracy, a bright spire showing the world that those core principles will always shine brightly in New York.”