Above: Gottheimer visits the 9/11 Museum and Memorial in Lower Manhattan today.
NEW YORK, NY — Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined a House Homeland Security Committee roundtable at One World Trade Center today, to discuss counterterrorism efforts and mark the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Gottheimer questioned regional and national security experts, officials, and first responders about his bipartisan legislation — the Darren Drake Act — a bipartisan bill named in memory of New Milford resident and victim of the 2017 NYC West Side Highway terrorist truck attack, Darren Drake, that aims to prevent terrorists from using trucks and other vehicles as weapons. The Darren Drake Act passed the House Committee on Homeland Security in July 2021.
Gottheimer also paused to visit the 9/11 Museum and Memorial to commemorate the American lives lost twenty years ago this month. He also participated in a roundtable with local and federal security officials from the New York Police Department (NYPD), New York City Fire Department (FDNY), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and United States Coast Guard, along with other members of the Committee on Homeland Security, to discuss our nation’s progress since 9/11, outstanding terror threats, and how the federal government can continue to support our national security.
“In New Jersey, where I live, we lost 750 souls, including 147 in the largest county I represent, Bergen County. There’s not a day that goes by that in some way we don’t remember. Recently, I introduced bipartisan legislation, the Darren Drake Act, which was passed out of this Committee, thanks to the Chairman’s leadership. It’s named in memory of a resident from New Jersey’s Fifth District, Darren Drake, from New Milford, who in October 2017, on the West Side Highway here in New York, was attacked by a terrorist truck,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer today, during his questioning of the roundtable’s panelists. “This bipartisan bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and disseminate best practices for rental companies and dealers to report suspicious behavior to law enforcement agencies at the point of sale of a rental vehicle to prevent and mitigate acts of terrorism using motor vehicles, which continues to be a threat. To Deputy Commissioner Miller, do you feel like we have what you need — this, as one tool in the arsenal, for New York City and the Metro area? Are there others that are still front of mind?”
John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism for New York City Police Department, responded, “We have a program where we literally go from truck rental place to truck rental place, and we try to educate them in what suspicious indicators are. But, there are gaps in the security picture from a legislative standpoint.”
Gottheimer also questioned experts about measures being taken to ensure that the United States follows through on our promise to take care of the responders and survivors who have been or will be newly diagnosed with 9/11-associated cancers caused by their toxic exposures.
Congressman Gottheimer asked, “Many of us have recently introduced the bipartisan Zadroga 9/11 health and compensation act, still focusing on those whose lives we continue to lose, and those we’ve lost who were at the pile — our first responders and others. Do you believe we are taking all the necessary steps? Do you feel that you have what you need? Because we continue to have so many members of law enforcement and firefighters who continue to be sick.”
John Bilch, the Chief Security Officer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, responded, “We’re twenty years in and there are new cases that are coming. So, ensuring that, not just the health coverage, the mental health coverage, the ease of reporting, are all things I think that are really important. We’re going to have folks we’ll be seeing for the next couple decades who are experiencing issues.”
Gottheimer is a cosponsor on the James Zadroga 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act, which addresses the impending funding shortfall facing the World Trade Center Health Program and ensures that it is fully funded now and in the future. This legislation provides medical treatment and monitoring for over 100,000 responders and survivors from the World Trade Center and lower Manhattan, the Pentagon, and the Shanksville crash site, who live in every state and in 434 out of 435 Congressional Districts.
Watch Gottheimer’s questioning at today’s Homeland Security roundtable here.