The drama unfolded along a swath of real estate that encompasses key infrastructure: the Bayway Refinery, the airport, Ports Newark and Elizabeth and the train stations. It’s been called the most dangerous two miles in America. And today we got a reminder — again — that our first responders are often the first responders. NJTV News Correspondent Briana Vannozzi has more.
Vannozzi: New Jersey’s two U.S. senators had planned to announce federal grant money in Elizabeth today to help bolster the number of first responders in the area. That took a back seat as authorities responded to the unfolding events of a home grown terror plot. I spoke with Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage immediately after the press conference.
Bollwage: I believe most of the residents of Elizabeth understand what happened over the last 18 hours and are ready to move forward. The community is safe and they understand that kids should go to school, businesses are open, trains are open and go to work in New York if you do.
Vannozzi: Can you tell us anything about items that may have been removed from the family restaurant and home, both located in Elizabeth?
Bollwage: The FBI and the State Police are still conducting the search warrant over at 104 Elmore Ave. That’s going to go on for quite a few hours and whatever they find there, I spoke to Special Agent [Timothy] Gallagher they are not going to release it to myself or the media through a formal channel. Whether someone else gets it or not it’s not going to come from me.
Vannozzi: What can you tell us about the family? Were they well known in the community? We know they owned a business.
Bollwage: The only interaction with the city of Elizabeth was one of negative because they had code enforcement problems as well as noise as well as being open for 24 hours. Which caused neighborhood complaints so the interaction with our city has been a negative one. Because they didn’t get their way, they took us to court and they sued us, which they also did not win in court in October of 2012. The case was dismissed in favor of the city of Elizabeth.
Vannozzi: Is it expected that maybe this was not meant to harm people that were there last night, but perhaps during the Monday morning commute?
Bollwage: There was no timer, no cell phone, no electronic device so it would have been impossible to set this device off from a remote location from the information that I was told. The speculation is that someone threw it in the garbage in order to get rid of it. Other than that, there is no information that it was going to go off at a certain time because there was not a mechanism attached to it for that.
Vannozzi: I also spoke with New Jersey’s senior Sen. Bob Menendez who said anyone who plants a bomb to hurt individuals is clearly conducting an act of terror. And he spoke to the threat in our region due to our infrastructure.
Menendez: The FBI itself has said in past studies that because of the chemical coast way, the airport, the sea ports and other institutions, you have the most dangerous two miles in America. We are a target rich environment located right next to New York City so that’s going to be a perpetual reality. It’s great all these great assets we have. It’s also a risk.”
Vannozzi: Again, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage reiterating to his residents and those in surrounding areas, the city is safe, it’s open for business and he encourages everyone to act as so.