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Schumer wants federal funds to keep NFTA counterterrorism team going

The federal government needs to act quickly to provide more funding for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s counterterrorism team, which is at risk of disbanding unless more money is made available, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday.

Schumer, who was at NFTA Police Headquarters in Cheektowaga, said he has called on the Department of Homeland Security to make anti-terrorism funding a priority for the NFTA’s explosive-detection team of six officers and two dogs.

Funding for the counterterrorism team runs out this month.

“Western New York is no stranger to terror and security threats – including the plot to do unspeakable damage to a passenger train over the Whirlpool Bridge,” Schumer said.

“Clearly, now is not the time to dial back on border and transit security,” he said. “However, if the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t step up and approve the NFTA’s application for a counterterrorism grant, that is exactly what could happen, as the vital NFTA’s Western New York Counterterrorism Team would be disbanded.”

The NFTA used funding from a Department of Homeland Security grant program to create the explosive-detection team, but last year, when the NFTA asked for more money to continue the unit, its application was denied.

A new round of grant applications will begin this month.

Schumer is not only asking Homeland Security to fund the NFTA application, but to do it quickly so the team stays intact.

The NFTA team coordinates counterterrorism efforts with the Department of Homeland Security, Buffalo Police, FBI and Customs and Border Protection, with a focus on both of the region’s airports and its light-rail and bus systems.

Schumer noted that with federal budget constraints, these grants tend to go to larger, coastal cities, but the senator made the case that Buffalo is the second-largest border crossing on the U.S.-Canadian border and that recent history has shown the potential for terrorist action in the region.

He referred to the recently foiled terrorist plot to attack a passenger train that runs through Buffalo and Niagara Falls on its route between Toronto and New York City.

“The Canadian terror plot, the Lackawanna Six and the terribly unfortunate events in Boston should make us more vigilant in New York’s big cities and their transit systems, not less,” the senator said. “I am urging the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the NFTA counterterrorism force, so that these highly trained specialists and their canine team can continue providing expertise and doing lifesaving work in Western New York.”