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US Secret Service to Oversee NY  Security During 2004 Republican Convention

In New York Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced the Secret Service will coordinate the city's security during the Republican presidential nominating convention next August.

The convention, beginning August 30, 2004, will take place as New York prepares for the third anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the city.

The Department of Homeland Security has designated the convention as a National Special Security Event, putting the Secret Service in charge of designing a security plan. Secretary Ridge says the objective of the designation is to create a seamless security plan between federal and local agencies. But he says the New York Police Department and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly will be responsible for carrying out the plans.

"It's a partnership and the plans will evolve accordingly," he pointed out. "We certainly defer to the commissioner. As good as the Secret Service is, nobody knows the city better than the commissioner."

In addition to President Bush and leading administration members, the convention is expected to attract 48,000 people, including Republican office holders from across the nation and journalists and visitors from all over the world.

Mr. Ridge says the Secret Service's anti-terrorism responsibilities do not supersede those of the police department or FBI. New York currently has about 1,300 people assigned to counter-terrorism activities.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed the extra help. "New York City Police Department is still responsible for providing security here. But they are going to now have one agency to go to in Washington for the help if and when we need it," he said.

The Republican convention will take place at one of New York's busiest sites, Madison Square Garden, a sports and music arena that sits atop a major transportation hub one block from Macy's, the world's largest department store. Security for the convention is expected to cost the cash-strapped city about $25 million. But city officials estimate it will generate some $260 million in revenues.

The Democrat's presidential convention, in the northeastern city of Boston at the end of July 2004, has received the same designation. Since 1999, only 14 events in the United States, including the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah, have been designated National Special Security Events.