times square explosion

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The New York City police issued a statement at 7:33 a.m. describing the source of the explosion as an “improvised explosive device” and putting the time of the blast at 3:43 a.m. Subways and traffic are running normally through Times Square. (See related slide show.)

At first glance, the explosion seemed reminiscent, in its effects and timing, of two earlier blasts. At about 3:40 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2007, two dummy hand grenades that had been fashioned into crude bombs exploded outside the Mexican Consulate at 27 East 39th Street in Murray Hill, shattering windows. The building was not occupied and no one was hurt. At 3:55 a.m. on May 5, 2005, two crude but powerful explosive devices detonated outside the British Consulate at 845 Third Avenue in East Midtown, shattering windows and damaging a planter.

Just after 6:45 a.m., a handful of law enforcement officers knelt at the foundation of the recruiting station, smashing the carpet of glass shards with >long-handled mallets. Two men in hazardous-materials suits stood above them, among more than a dozen investigators from the city’s Police and Fire Departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Police vans and squad cars ringed the scene, with clusters of detectives on street corners, paging through notebooks and talking on cellphones.

7:39 a.m. | New York City police officers and firefighters cordoned off much of Times Square for more than two hours after a small explosion — apparently set off by a manmade device — damaged the front of the Armed Forces Career Center on the traffic island bounded by 43rd and 44th Streets, Seventh Avenue and Broadway around 4 a.m., officials said. No one was injured, and after a temporary interruption, subway service was restored.

Most traffic around Times Square was allowed to pass by 6:45 a.m., after vehicles had been diverted for more than two hours. City officials confirmed that police had initially blocked off the area as a precaution to ensure that there was no secondary device or other threat; the officials emphasized that they did not believe anyone was in danger.

Police officers at the scene said the explosion blew a hole through the front door of the recruiting station, which is at the northern end of the structure.

In Washington, a spokeswoman for the United States Department of Homeland Security said it was monitoring and investigating the explosion, Reuters reported. Asked if there was a link to terrorism, the spokeswoman, Laura Keehner, said, “At this time we’re still investigating.”

Capt. Charles V. Jaquillard, the Army Recruiting Command’s company commander for New York City, said in a phone interview that he was informed of the explosion around 5 a.m. “If it were something directed toward the individuals working at that station, then obviously it’s very unfortunate and of great concern, because there’s nothing more important to us than the safety of our troops,” he said.

The explosion briefly disrupted the vital transit node at Times Square, but full subway service had been restored as of 5:39 a.m. A dozen subway lines — the A, C, E, N, Q, R, W, S and Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 7 — run through Times Square. Subway service on those lines — along with the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 lines, which run through Grand Central Terminal — had been suspended at 4:24 a.m., with some lines restored soon after. The recruiting station sits almost directly atop the western terminus of the S, also known as the 42nd Street shuttle, which connects Times Square with Grand Central Terminal.

“I just heard a boom,” said Deon Halliday, 43, a maintenance-security worker at Silverstein Properties at 570 Seventh Avenue who was standing on the avenue, examining the scene, at 6 a.m. “I thought it was a garbage truck. It happened around 4 o’clock. I stayed in the building because I didn’t know what it was. I had to secure the building.” He added, “I came out later and I was looking at the street and no cars are coming by. I saw all the helicopters.”

As the sun came up, at least three helicopters flew overhead, but it was not clear whether the helicopters were operated by the police.

“I felt the vibration,” said Patrick, a security officer at a building on the northern side of 42nd Street, just east of Times Square, who would only give his first name. “It was nothing special. It was around 4, quarter to 4. It was a vibration on the floor.”

For about two hours after the explosion, police officers at the scene said Times Square was closed, and they turned people and cars back. A large police van and a police vehicle with lights flashing were parked at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue by 5:30 a.m. Police had cordoned off much of 41st Street, Seventh Avenue and the subway station entrances. Police officers turned pedestrians away, including a woman who was trying to jog through. Workers already in their buildings in the cordoned off area were not being allowed out, police officers at the scene said. Employees of Reuters were being turned back at the police tape, and officers were telling them to take the day off.

“It happened two hours ago,” one officer said at the scene, describing the situation as “very fluid.”

Traffic was diverted for a time even to the west, at Eighth Avenue and 41st Street, where a large police vehicle blocked the avenue and traffic was being diverted through the Port Authority bus terminal. Cars were backed up on Eighth Avenue, with some drivers honking angrily. By 6:30 a.m., traffic was moving more easily up Eighth Avenue.

The recruiting station — the third that has stood on the site since 1946 — has been the site of regular antiwar protests since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, although until today, the only major threat to the station seemed to come from pigeons.

The station reopened in September 1999 after a $1 million redesign by Stephen Cassell and Adam Yarinsky of the Architectural Research Office, a Manhattan-based architecture firm. The 520-square-foot building is decorated with 33-by-14-foot flags rendered in fluorescent lights and a giant, nine-panel television screen. The interior contains space for Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine recruiters and one bathroom.

The previous recruiting station, often known simply as the booth, opened in 1950. Built of stainless steel, with smoked-glass windows, the station was an instantly recognizable landmark of Times Square. “It was the only outpost to house recruiters from all four military branches,” Paul von Zielbauer wrote in The Times in February 1999, when the old station was demolished to make way for the redesigned one. “It was the only station that could reject far more recruits than it enlisted — more than 200 a year signed up — and still claim top honors in recruiting circles. And it was the only recruiting station in the country without a bathroom.”

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