Feature:NYC watchful for Halloween

By CHANAN TIGAY   |   Oct. 31, 2001 at 2:46 PM   |   0 comments

NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Security throughout New York will be as tight as Medusa's curls for Halloween festivities Wednesday, but for parents and children around the city, activities will proceed as usual with costume choice reflecting an added dose of patriotism and New York pride.

"I don't think there's anything to be afraid of," said Rachel Zuckerman, 33, whose two young boys are dressing up as New York firemen for the holiday. "You mostly take them to people who you know. I would feel completely safe and trust that."

In her neighborhood, children don't go door-to-door, but rather follow the "trick or treat trail" of pumpkins set out in front of local shops that encourage kids to come in to receive candy, Zuckerman said.

"My husband said, 'I don't think you should take them out at all,' but that's crazy," Zuckerman said. "I would not go to that big parade tonight. I would avoid the big crowds. It's easy to stay home. Why go to it?"

Zuckerman was referring to the annual Halloween parade held in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Additional planned activities in New York include costume balls, rock concerts and carnivals.

"It used to be razor blades, now it's anthrax," Zuckerman lamented.

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's office said the parade will go on, despite New Yorkers' concerns.

"The mayor has said on repeated occasions that it is important for us to go on with our lives as normally as possible," a mayoral spokesman told United Press International on condition of anonymity. "The Halloween parade will go on, and measures are being taken to ensure that everyone's safety is assured."

Israeli expatriate Leo Leibovitz, 25, agreed, saying he is accustomed to attending events threatened by terrorism.

"The places where you most expect a terrorist attack are usually the places where security is the tightest," he said. "So, logically, mass events held in key public places are about the safest hangout spots in Manhattan right now."

Coming just seven weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- and falling on the same night as Game 4 of baseball's World Series in New York --security forces are sure to be on guard.

Some 1,000 police officers patroled Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, the largest police contingent at a baseball game in years, and a similar number is expected to patrol Wednesday's game.

The Police Department would not give details of the Halloween security plan, saying only that it would be stepped up. Reports indicate that security will be increased at cemeteries, schools and houses of prayer, with a 2,000-strong police contingent patrolling the Greenwich Village parade grounds with orders to watch for suspicious people and packages.

New York City's correction officers have offered to escort children for free during trick-or-treating. Union President Norman Seabrook said his nearly 12,000 members would provide the neighborhood escorts due to fears of terrorist attacks and anthrax contamination. The corrections

officers last offered to escort children in the mid-1990s.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has called for the cancellation of Halloween festivities in light of the Sept. 11 attacks. In addition to clashing with the spirit of the times, the anthrax outbreak and warnings of another imminent attack are reason enough to nix this year's celebrations, Jackson said.

Meanwhile, at costume shops across the city, Giuliani masks are selling like hot cakes.

"The Giuliani mask is the No. 1 seller this year," said Paul Blum, 52, owner of the Abracadabra costume store in New York's Flatiron district. "Fireman and policeman outfits are also big, and so are the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam costumes. And the biohazard suits sold right out. I bought them, but I never realized we'd have this (shortage) problem."

Blum said he had masks of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden custom-made, but will not sell them to anyone for purposes other than "defamation of character."

"If they just think it's funny, I won't sell it to them," he said. "If they want to put it in an electric chair or hang it (with a noose), or use it as a football, that's OK."

"I hope people celebrate this Halloween through the weekend," Blum added. "They're trying to terrify us into not having a Halloween. It's a patriotic thing to do if we party."

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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