A year after attack, police out in force for NYC Halloween

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By MICHAEL R. SISAK and VERENA DOBNIK
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - As a jittery New York celebrates Halloween on Wednesday, city officials are taking heat for botching a ceremony meant to honor victims of last year's deadly truck attack.

A last-minute invitation to the ceremony make it so one victim's mother couldn't attend, her friend, Hugh Hales-Tooke said. Those who did make it were miffed when officials closed the ceremony without reading the names of the eight dead.

A police officer scrambled to the podium as the small crowd was dispersing, and Mayor Bill de Blasio raced up to apologize and read the names.

"This should have been part of the gathering to read the names of the eight that we lost," said de Blasio, a Democrat. "I want to right that wrong with apologies and do that now and ask everyone to bow their heads as we remember each of them."

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De Blasio attended the ceremony alongside emergency responders, a small group of family members and friends and the consuls general of Argentina and Belgium.

A wreath of white roses was placed at the site of the attack and a minute-long moment of silence was observed.

Hales-Tooke, upset with how things were handled, refused to shake De Blasio's hand.

"The response from government has been really bad," said Hales-Tooke, a friend of Monica Missio, the mother of victim Nicholas Cleves.

"It's been very hurtful for Monica that the response from elected officials has been so poor," he added.

Meanwhile, the city's police department will be out in force as a precaution as hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city's big Halloween parade in Greenwich Village.

Thousands of uniformed and plainclothes officers will be on hand for the parade, normally a crowded, jubilant affair in which both marchers and spectators come in costume. They'll be joined by counterterrorism and crowd control units, rooftop observers, police dogs and helicopters.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill said police want to ensure New Yorkers can celebrate "in an atmosphere of community, peace and fun, and certainly not fear."

The city was just starting to gear up for its evening Halloween celebrations last year when a man driving a pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a busy bike path along the Hudson River, not far from the parade route, killing eight people and seriously injuring 11 others.

Among the dead were five Argentinian friends vacationing in New York, a Belgian tourist, a New Jersey man who worked at the World Trade Center and one New Yorker, a software engineer.

The truck's driver, Sayfullo Saipov, was shot by police after crashing into a school bus and is awaiting trial on terrorism charges. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

After the attack, "the people of the city responded in extraordinary fashion," De Blasio said at Wednesday's ceremony. "Instead of living in fear, people came out in droves to show they would not be moved, they would not be changed, they would not be intimidated."

"They were sending a message: that the terrorists have lost already," De Blasio added. "New Yorkers do not allow themselves to be terrorized."

Wednesday's Halloween parade is the city's first large-scale public event since the back-to-back trauma last week of the discovery of a series of package bombs, mailed to prominent Democratic officials and CNN's Manhattan offices, and a gunman's slaughter of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.

In recent days, police have responded to false alarms involving suspicious packages and unattended bags, including scares outside Radio City Music Hall, at The New York Times and at the Time Warner Center, home to CNN's New York offices.

O'Neill said Tuesday that police knew of no specific, credible threats to the city, but revelers can come to expect the same type of security precautions that have become routine at other big events, like Sunday's TCS New York City Marathon and the upcoming Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

Last year's Halloween parade went on as scheduled after the attack, with marchers lining up just a few blocks from the bike path, but with increased security, including sand-filled trucks parked as protective barriers along the route to stop any speeding vehicles.

Over the past year, the miles-long Hudson River bike path that was the scene of the attack has been outfitted with temporary concrete barriers and permanent steel posts to block vehicles.

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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