Int’l terror expert speaks: LIRR bollards are ‘overkill’ and ‘ugly’

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A counter-terrorism expert who has instructed police officers and the U.S. military on security tactics has joined the chorus of critics complaining that the mega-bollards in front of the new Long Island Rail Road terminal are “overkill,” and “excessive and ugly.”

Lionel Rawlins, a former Marine and criminology professor, took a moment from his consulting duties in Afghanistan to give The Brooklyn Paper his opinion on the tomb-like bollards at the new station at Hanson Place and Flatbush Avenue.

“I have been in counter-terrorism for a long time and have never seen such monstrosity — anywhere,” he said.

“You do not see that sort of monstrosity in front of the White House or the Capitol do you?” Rawlins continued. “Someone wanting to do harm to the terminal … will do so from within the structure — not from outside — because the person(s) will want to make a statement.”

The president of the Von Frederick Group consulting firm added, “By the way, a terrorist on a motorcycle can maneuver around those Egyptian tombs — that’s what they look like to me — at a fast enough speed to create some problems for the city.”

The now-notorious bollards, which exceed NYPD standards for “high-risk” targets, have been likened to the entrance of King Tut’s tomb and a security fortress.

When the grand opening of the terminal was celebrated in the first week of 2010, politicians and railroad officials conceded that the bollards were not aesthetically pleasing.

“The coffins are ugly,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene). “This is a facility that is supposed to celebrate openness, yet they put hideous barricades in front of it.”

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams agreed, but said that such measures are necessary “in this day and age.”

“We worked with the NYPD and the MTA police, who assess the risks and tell us what kind of security we need,” she said. “Do these bollards lack elegance? Yes. But they are necessary.”

But the counter-terrorism expert disagreed.

“Someone went too far with their imagination and machination,” Rawlins said. “We have bollards that can stop a speeding vehicle in its tracks and many of these bollards are quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”

In addition to the bollards being over the top, he foresaw another problem. “The area will turn into a ‘garbage and trash area’ in no time,” Rawlins added.

Both the architectural firm that designed the terminal, John di Domenico and Partners and the Long Island Rail Road did not return numerous requests for clarification on how the design of the bollards was determined — as has been the case since they were first unveiled.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Bay Ridge says:
I agree that they serve no function as far as security goes - but as for aesthetics, that's just a question of taste. Personally I think that they look kind of cool. I like the style. You know, big and rough and like you say, almost like egyptian tombs. they're excellent.
March 22, 2010, 3:05 am
John from Clinton Hill says:
Why should we take the opinion of a consultant based in Sacramento, California as gospel over the NYPD and MTA? Where was Lionel on September 11th? Could the MTA have used a better design? Sure, but it looks a whole lot better than the decrepit property directly across the street, otherwise known as the Atlantic Yards project. Thank goodness that will change soon enough. By the way Brooklyn Papers, why must you recycle the same editorialized stories? Is there anything else going on in Brooklyn?
March 22, 2010, 7:19 am
dougie from pslope says:
doesn't take an expert to know they are overkill and ugly.
March 22, 2010, 8:44 am
Al from Park Slope says:
I am someone who never waits at the edge of the curb while waiting for the light to change in order to cross the street, especially on busy streets. Fact of the matter is I do not trust that drivers speeding past will not every now and then loose control and jump the curb every so often. between people eating and drinking, texting, talking on the phone or plain old reckless driving.. I like to stand a few feet back, just in case.

I actually find the "tombs" to be a nice safe place to stand near just incase that speeding dollar van or other of the many reckless drivers goes a bit to fast and ends up barrelling onto the sidewalk.. ESPECIALLY ON SUCH AN EXTREMELY CHAOTIC INTERSECTION. To me, they are merely a very welcomed group of guardrails.....
March 22, 2010, 9:18 am
Don from Kensington says:
If the LIRR terminal is such a target, why aren't there bollards around the adjacent shopping center. Aren't the train tracks actually under shopping center (and also under Flatbush and Atlantic avenues), and NOT the terminal building?

Furthermore, what's the pedestrian traffic flow out of through the terminal onto the street (where the bollards are) versus from the LIRR trains beneath the shopping center directly into the subway system that's honeycombed beneath everything EXCEPT the terminal?

Point is, hitting the shopping center would probably be a more effective terrorist strike than damaging the LIRR terminal building. And the shopping center has NO protect!
March 22, 2010, 10:18 am
Larry from Park Slope says:
I looked carefully around Manhattan's Grand Central Station, the new Bank of America building-One Bryant Park, the new office tower at Madison Ave & E 42nd Street-SW corner, and the Citicorp Tower-Lexington Ave & E 53rd St.

Each of these highly important buildings and station have very neat, chromium polished & steel cylinders surrounding the building at intervals of a few feet.

What makes the new LIRR/MTA station a greater target the the locations mentioned above?

The bollards are out of scale and are ugly. Like most ugly architecture, we probably get use to them, in time. It is unfortunate that the ugly bollards were installed to begin with.

As for the security and architectural sensibility of the NYPD and MTA--give me a break!

March 22, 2010, 1:54 pm
Jaimie from Brooklyn Heights says:
These blocks or "guarders" (as the architects call them) are nothing but overkill and an eyesore. They scream of racism and over-reaction.

I presonally would like to say that they don't protect me from stuff - and if that wasn't enough they are hard on the eyes and were an unneccessarry addition to the structure.
March 22, 2010, 5:50 pm
mitch from Ft. Greene says:
they are disgusting. seriously.
you could achieve the same thing with metal rods.
clean and neat.
those things are an eye sore and totally annoying.

you spent all this money to renovate the terminal. WTF!!!!
April 1, 2010, 1:14 pm

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