Last week’s arrest of four terror suspects who allegedly plotted to blow up jet fuel supplies at John F. Kennedy Airport reignited fears in Bay Ridge about the neighborhood’s own terror target: the very pipeline that carries jet fuel to the airport.
The 40-year-old Buckeye pipeline, which runs from Linden, New Jersey to JFK, has an unsecure portion in Bay Ridge — and some locals believe the pipeline has a bulls-eye painted on it.
And that was even before last Saturday, when authorities announced that four Muslim men were allegedly plotting to ignite a JFK fuel line. The plotters also apparently believed that causing an explosion at the airport would trigger blasts up and down the pipeline. The news shook residents, resurfacing fears that they could have a terror target in their own back yards.
“Of course, we are on edge,” said Avery Greene, a resident of the Towers of Bay Ridge, which is on 65th Street between Ridge and Third avenues. “It is hard to imagine how many people could die if that pipeline got into the wrong hands.”
Shortly after 9-11, federal anti-terror officials toured the area near the twin high-rises, which was then well known as both a haven for the homeless and the site of the pipeline. Authorities concluded, however, that there was no threat to Bay Ridge.
Tenants argue that the wire fencing surroundingÂ the cavern fails to prevent theÂ homeless, let alone more dangerous intruders, from entering the area.
“The open chain link fence around the rail yard provides no protection whatsoever against a terrorist attack,” Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) said this week. Fossella first raised security concerns about the pipeline in 2005.
“It is time for the parties to resolve who holds responsibility for securing the area and act immediately to fortify it.”
Still, not everyone thinks the pipeline is a terror threat.
The pipeline couldn’t be safer, according to the Ohio-based Buckeye Pipe Line Co., which transports an estimated one million barrels of petroleum across 3,900 miles and 10 states.
A company spokesman said there has not been a single security breach since the pipeline was built — and he doesn’t anticipate one.
“[It is] patrolled on a weekly basis at minimum and there is a shut-off valve every half-mile,” said the spokesman, Roy Haase. “We are a very safe institution that has delivered billions of gallons of petroleum without any harm.”
Haase added that part of the security feature was the fact that the pipeline was buried several feet underneath the earth.
“The pipe is three-to-four feet underground,” said Haase. “There are no portions of the pipeline that are exposed.”
That was news to this reporter, who had no problem reaching the exposed portion of the pipeline and snapping a picture of himself touching it. All it took was crawling through a hole in the fence and navigating down a small hill.
A Department of Transportation truck actually drove by as this reporter snapped pictures of the pipeline, yet did not stop.
Haase said he has been receiving quite a few complaints lately, but most are due to misperceptions, like the idea that igniting a pipeline at JFK would spread through the pipes connected to parts of Queens and Brooklyn.
“That idea is patently absurd,” said Haase. “There is no oxygen or air in the pipes, which you need for combustion.”
State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) is calling for “full review of this portion” and the “implementation of necessary changes.”
“The fear is very real,” said Golden. “We cannot be too cautious in the times in which we live.”