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With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?

07.25.2006 | POLITICS

Al-Qaeda is looking for a few dim men. The terrorist ring taken down earlier this month by local, federal, and international law enforcement officials was the cell that couldn’t plot straight. Isiah Thomas's plan to rebuild the Knicks was more viable.

Okay now, you were going to flood lower Manhattan? You and what tsunami? So run this by me again -- first, you blow out a wall in the Holland Tunnel. The tunnel then fills with water, which in turn spouts out of the tunnel mouth and up into the streets above because, as we know, water hates New York’s cultural and economic prowess.

It shouldn’t take an A-minus in fluid dynamics to know water under constant atmospheric pressure seeks its own level. That has a little something to do with gravity, but evidently you never got that far in terror school. The central question here is, how can one know so little and hope to destroy so much? By all accounts, you had never been to the Big Apple. Not even a visit. Minimal research. What were you going to do once you got here, enroll at Cooper Union?

If by chance you ever do make it to New York -- say on parole in the year 2035 -- take a walk along Canal Street, west toward the Hudson. Past the restored triangular Canal Street Park, all the way to the seawall. Lean over the railing. Before you jump off, take a look at the water. That is what we in New York call sea level. There is low, mean, and high level and corresponding shades of green algae staining the concrete. Those stains will remain no matter how many Holland, PATH, or other tunnel tubes you and your delusional chat room friends fantasize about detonating. If you want to see results, you’ll just have to wait for the polar ice caps to melt like the rest of us.

Next question -- after you were done blasting a hole in the 5-foot thick concrete and steel tunnel walls with your improvised cherry bomb, what were you going to do about the bedrock and the 20 or so feet of alluvial mud on top? Oh, I get it. You thought the tunnel was sort of floating out there like a severed garden hose or a discarded plastic straw. Details, details. Back in 1969, when my three-year-old cousin thought the Lincoln Tunnel was leaking, we all laughed. You would have recruited him.

Just for the record, you’d have had a better shot taking down the Williamsburg Bridge with a jackhammer. You had less impact in July than the crane operator’s strike. You were outdone by an insane Upper East Side ER doctor. Disrupt the economy? You barely disrupted the pretzel guy at the tunnel entrance. I guess they let anybody be a terrorist these days. Truthfully, who in life is lower than a failed suicide bomber? You couldn’t even cut it as a patsy.

Here are some thoughts to ponder, Mr. Hammoud, from the comfort of your Lebanese prison cell. There is this thing called the water tunnel. Actually, there are three of them. They originate in watersheds up in the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton regions, hundreds of feet above sea level. Water under that kind of pressure could flood a street or two in Manhattan, as it does every time a water main breaks. Feeling lucky, punk? Frankly, I don’t think you and your wannabe friends could open a fire hydrant on a hot day in August.

There is also something called the interceptor. Measuring as much as 26 feet in diameter, this tunnel carries half a borough’s worth of sewage along the West Side of Manhattan. You might consider impeding the flow of human waste for a few hours. Let us know how it turns out.

Yes, I taunt, because as inept as you are, deep down I fear the next cell may not be. I pray for an endless string of laughable, incompetent, rank amateurs like yourselves. My fondest wish is that you serve as role models for others who wish to do harm. Of course, as a former borough engineer with a few years of hard core New York infrastructure experience under my belt, I do have an idea or two on how you could inflict some real damage to the city. Eat your heart out.

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at

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