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To get home each day, Chen has to present his ID at a police checkpoint. When the officer lowers the metal gate into the ground to let him in, he drives through as quickly as he can. More than once, the barricade has risen too soon, lifting his wife's minivan into the air.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the New York Police Department barricaded off its headquarters on Park Row. About 2,000 residents in two apartment complexes found themselves living inside a security zone.
Nine years later, they still are.
Washington, D.C., is littered with bollards. Nearly half of Los Angeles' financial district is now partially restricted, according to a study at the University of Colorado Denver. Roads across dams have been closed to traffic for security concerns.
Business owners say foot traffic has plummeted. Paul Lee says his family's 113-year-old general store folded in 2003 because of the new security measures.
"The suppliers don't want to come down anymore, and you have no more customers," Lee said.
But others fear that security measures may be inhibiting urban connections. Setting buildings far back from the street, placing them atop concrete blast shields, crowding sidewalks with barricades, constantly screening people as they enter or exit buildings, electronically surveilling them at every waking moment -- these measures push us apart and foster our fears and suspicions. The effect is physical as well as psychic. Goldberger points out that you used to be able to walk around Manhattan, both on the sidewalks and through the lobbies of large buildings, without showing any credentials. Today that's nearly impossible because entering nearly every building requires passing through a security checkpoint. The checkpoint culture weighs on the soul, reminding us at every point that we live in a dangerous time, and that anyone we see might seek to do us harm.
Jersey barriers have no natural business on city sidewalks. That's not just because they're ugly -- they also do nothing to halt attacks. The barriers, which were designed as lane separators by New Jersey's state Highway Authority in 1955, are intended to be placed on roads parallel to the direction in which cars are traveling. A vehicle that nudges too close to the barrier will ride up its tapered edge and slide back onto the road, suffering minimal damage. But placed the opposite way -- in front of a building to protect against oncoming attack -- a Jersey barrier is no match for a fast car or truck. In crash tests, speeding vehicles that hit the barriers at obtuse angles simply knock them over or vault over them straight at the target.