Int’l terror expert speaks: LIRR bollards are ‘overkill’ and ‘ugly’

New LIRR terminal is a monument to fear and paranoia
The Brooklyn Paper / Barry Shifrin

A counter-terrorism expert who has instructed police officers and the U.S. military on security tactics has joined the chorus of critics complaining that the mega-bollards in front of the new Long Island Rail Road terminal are “overkill,” and “excessive and ugly.”

Lionel Rawlins, a former Marine and criminology professor, took a moment from his consulting duties in Afghanistan to give The Brooklyn Paper his opinion on the tomb-like bollards at the new station at Hanson Place and Flatbush Avenue.

“I have been in counter-terrorism for a long time and have never seen such monstrosity — anywhere,” he said.

“You do not see that sort of monstrosity in front of the White House or the Capitol do you?” Rawlins continued. “Someone wanting to do harm to the terminal … will do so from within the structure — not from outside — because the person(s) will want to make a statement.”

The president of the Von Frederick Group consulting firm added, “By the way, a terrorist on a motorcycle can maneuver around those Egyptian tombs — that’s what they look like to me — at a fast enough speed to create some problems for the city.”

The now-notorious bollards, which exceed NYPD standards for “high-risk” targets, have been likened to the entrance of King Tut’s tomb and a security fortress.

When the grand opening of the terminal was celebrated in the first week of 2010, politicians and railroad officials conceded that the bollards were not aesthetically pleasing.

“The coffins are ugly,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene). “This is a facility that is supposed to celebrate openness, yet they put hideous barricades in front of it.”

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams agreed, but said that such measures are necessary “in this day and age.”

“We worked with the NYPD and the MTA police, who assess the risks and tell us what kind of security we need,” she said. “Do these bollards lack elegance? Yes. But they are necessary.”

But the counter-terrorism expert disagreed.

“Someone went too far with their imagination and machination,” Rawlins said. “We have bollards that can stop a speeding vehicle in its tracks and many of these bollards are quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”

In addition to the bollards being over the top, he foresaw another problem. “The area will turn into a ‘garbage and trash area’ in no time,” Rawlins added.

Both the architectural firm that designed the terminal, John di Domenico and Partners and the Long Island Rail Road did not return numerous requests for clarification on how the design of the bollards was determined — as has been the case since they were first unveiled.

Even a counter-terrorism expert argues that the bollards at the new Long Island Rail Road terminal are too big!
The Brooklyn Paper / Barry Shifrin