Ticket holders at the New York Knicks’ game last night were greeted with tighter security at the National Basketball Association team’s first home game since the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.
Chris Reynolds, who watched with his 8-year-old son as the Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 98-92 in their final regular- season game, said he missed the tipoff because the line to enter Madison Square Garden took longer than usual. He said there was an increased police presence in front of the arena and in Penn Station, where his train arrived from New Jersey.
“After what happened at the marathon, I think I feel more comfortable with the increase in security at the game,” Reynolds, 43, said in an interview. “It has to help that the arena is on top of Penn Station.”
The Knicks face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs starting April 20. Game Three of that series will be the first Celtics game in Boston since the attacks.
Knicks forward Steve Novak said he’s looking forward to the emotion in Boston’s TD Garden when New York plays there next week. He said when Hurricane Sandy struck New York at the beginning of the season, sports provided a distraction for many in the area.
“Sports have that power to heal and people aren’t going to have forgotten about this by the time we get to Boston,” he said.
Amtrak Police K-9 dogs patrolled sidewalks outside Madison Square Garden and security officials conducted thorough scans of people entering the building last night, two days after twin bombings in Boston killed three people and injured at least 175.
A former New York law enforcement official said the block that contains the arena and the train station, which services roughly 600,000 travelers per day, is one of the three Manhattan areas with the most intense law enforcement presence, along with Times Square and the Financial District.
Pasquale D’Amuro, former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office, said that intense security is needed.
“You’ve had threats against sporting events, you’ve had threats against transportation nodes and that contains both of them at that particular location,” D’Amuro, chairman and chief executive of New York-based Global Risk & Investigative Diligence LLC, said in a telephone interview.
Richard Falkenrath, former New York Police Department deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, said the area was also unique in the amount of different law enforcement groups present. They include the New York Police Department, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police, New Jersey Transit police, Amtrak Police and the Garden’s security teams, sometimes supplemented by Transportation Security Administration officers, Port Authority police and the National Guard.
Now principal of the Chertoff Group, Falkenrath said in an interview that the block is “in the first tier” of New York properties that sees additional security when there are safety concerns in any high-profile American city.
Barry Watkins, a spokesman for MSG, declined in an e-mail to comment on whether the arena changed its own security procedures for the game. Watkins said the Garden was working with the NBA and local law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of its employees and fans.
Players in both locker rooms said they were not worried about security inside the building, and noticed nothing abnormal when they entered the arena.
“They always check bags and look at what’s coming in,” Hawks guard DeShawn Stevenson said before the game. “Everything was pretty much the same.”
For fans, the security was enhanced and efficient, according to Jack Borcelli, a New Jersey resident who said he’s been to a handful of games this year. He said guards scanned him with a metal-detection hand wand before entering the game, which has not always happened in the past.
“I got in in about five minutes,” Borcelli, 50, said in an interview. “It was definitely increased, they were wanding everybody and the dogs were out front, but I think they did a great job.”
There was increased security two nights ago at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where fans observed a moment of silence to honor victims of the bombing and sang along to “Sweet Caroline,” a staple at Boston Red Sox home games, at the end of the third inning.
Boston’s TD Garden tightened its security last night when the National Hockey League’s Bruins got the point they needed to clinch a playoff berth with a 3-2 loss in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres.
Security at sporting events changed dramatically after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to Wayne Hasenbalg, president and chief executive of New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. He said that, while it is easier to plan security at a closed venue such as an arena, it is important to provide adequate security without impeding the fan experience, such as the amount of time it takes to enter the venue.
“That’s a delicate balance,” he said in a telephone interview.
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