New York City and New Jersey have experienced a tense 48 hours after a bomb went off on the boardwalk near the route of a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, Saturday morning and then another in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Saturday night. Just blocks away, also in Chelsea, another explosive device was found, and Sunday yet more unexploded bombs were found, this time in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Why were the sites of the New York and New Jersey explosions selected? It's still unclear if the events are connected, so there could be very different reasons.
Particularly the New York site was curious in that it's not seen as a particularly significant target; it's not a key tourist destination like Times Square, where the last attempted attack in the city occurred in 2010. The New York Times interviewed a former New York law enforcement official who said on condition of anonymity that there's no clue yet on why two streets in Chelsea were selected and not a subway station or other more heavily trafficked area:
You've got to go somewhere. So the question is: Is the location significant, in terms of motive? And we don't know that 23rd Street has any particular significance.
The Seaside Park, New Jersey, bombing would seem to have a more obvious answer: A charity run benefiting the Marine Corps. was supposed to be moving through the area when the bomb went off. A delay in registration and start of the race meant there was no one nearby when it did explode. "We were lucky," Al Della Fave, the spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor's office, told CNN. "If it was just a matter of minutes, in terms of difference, there would have been a good number of people running past that explosive device."
And on Sunday night, two men found suspicious devices in a garbage can near the train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. When they noticed pipes and wires in the backpack they picked out of a garbage can, they set down the device and called police. The bomb squad came and investigated with a drone, which led one of the pipe bombs to go off, frightening area residents. Train traffic was halted too. As for the location, the only things nearby were a bar and train trestle. To the Elizabeth mayor, Chris Bollwage, that meant this was not the intended target:
Whoever threw it into the can was probably trying to get rid of it. It's not in a highly congested area.
It remains unclear whether any of these devices are related (save the two in Chelsea, video surveillance shows the same man leaving the pressure cooker bombs at the scene). CNN reported that the devices in Seaside Park and Chelsea used similar explosives. Further investigation could provide more answers, including everything from the cell phones used to the tape that held them together.
Meanwhile New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will up law enforcement presence on the street, especially as world leaders including President Obama head to the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week. Cuomo said an extra 1,000 state police and National Guard will be out. De Blasio agreed. "You should know you will see a very substantial NYPD presence this week — bigger than ever," de Blasio said. Until more becomes known, that is probably prudent.