$10.1 million in Homeland Security money available through New York state

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In the Little Theater of Lawrence High School, Town of Hempstead Deputy Comptroller Richard Ramos with help from Kevin Anderson, a federal Department of Homeland Security Protection Security Advisor, introduced several people from houses of worship and nonpublic educational facilities to the New York State Grants Gateway program.

There is $10.1 million available for security enhancements with the maximum grant being $150,000 for the current application period. The money is coming from the federal DHS and is funneled to the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Services division.

The money can be used for security-related training, physical and cyber security improvements, inspection and screening systems, purchasing and installing equipment such as bollards, cameras, safe rooms and Teflon screens for glass doors and windows. The money cannot be used for expenses such as rent or paying employees.

“The consequences of not being prepared is death,” Ramos said bluntly. “It’s the sad reality.”

Roughly 15 people listened intently on March 27, about what needs to be done to access the money and how simple things could be done to create a safer environment. Ramos noted that many educational and religious institutions put the activities and events schedules online. “Instead give time frames and call for more information, because toy are telling people when the building will be occupied,” he said.

Anderson, a retired New York City police sergeant who became a lawyer and spent 30 years in the Coast Guard, including a decade as an active Coast Guardsman, is one of three protection security advisors assigned to Long Island, New York City and Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties. There are 120 such advisors across the country.

Protection security advisors review risk assessments and make security recommendations. Anderson and his colleagues will visit — for free— churches, mosques, synagogues and nonpublic educational facilities and provide a roughly two-hour review of security. They will provide recommendations ranging from no cost to high cost to upgrade an institution’s security. The advisors also offer active shooter training.

“After 9/11, Homeland Security was created with several existing agencies folded into the department,” Anderson said. “Congress wanted to know what is and where the country’s critical infrastructure is and how do we protect it. What we found is 90 percent is privately owned.” The primary infrastructure that needs securing are what he called “lifelines” water, wastewater, transportation and power.

The grants work on a point system with target hardening — 14 points — and the risk facing the organization — 12 points — the highest totals. Out of the maximum 40 points, developing a plan that identifies and addresses risks counts for 65 percent and having knowledge of how to implement the plan is 30 percent.

Ramos recommended that people with project management experience be involved with the grant process and the security upgrades. “Be aware of what you need,” he said. “Every point matters.”

Representatives from the Astoria Center of Israel attended the forum, including the Queens synagogue’s educational director, Ayelet Pearl, who said that the information was “helpful” as “I didn’t know that these grants existed.” She added that reconciling being a welcoming place and ensuring the safety of everyone is a work in progress. “It’s very helpful to know that we are on the same page and hopefully we can find some middle ground,” Pearl said.

To begin applying for a grant, go to www.grants.gov and https://grantsgateway.ny.gov.