Increased Security, Condolences as New York Reacts to Bastille Day Rampage in France

Elected officials sent condolences to France Thursday as police stepped up security across New York City following a truck attack in Nice that killed at least 84 people and left dozens more injured.

The NYPD’s heavily-armed Hercules team stood watch over the French consulate, where flags were being lowered in tribute to the dozens who were slaughtered in the Bastille Day rampage.

There was an increased police presence in heavily trafficked areas of the city after Gov. Cuomo directed state law enforcement officials to step up security at high-profile locations around the state, including airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems.

NYPD officers lined 42nd Street near Bryant Park and officers stood watch over other tourist-heavy areas in midtown, including Rockefeller Center and Times Square.

The sight was an all too familiar response to recent acts of terror. But police commanders said Friday they've been bracing for a truck attack for years.

"We have been looking at the use of vehicles for some time, ever since Inspire Magazine referred to trucks as the 'ultimate mowing machine,'" said John Miller, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism. 

In fact, 14 years ago a New Jersey man named Ronald Popadich plowed down 19 people at a jam-packed Herald Square crosswalk, motivated then by mental illness and depression -- not global terror. 

"This is not something we started thinking about last night," said Miller, pointing out that there have been more concrete barriers, sanitation trucks and heavy planters set up across the city in recent years, all designed to prevent a car or truck from hitting crowds. Those measures were visible when the pope visited last year. 

Meanwhile, Cuomo said New York stands with France on its independence day and in the face of terror.

“The horrific rampage in Nice is a direct attack on the universal values our two countries have long championed and upheld. As the French people came together to celebrate liberty and unity on their independence day, extremists sought to undermine it with hate and intolerance,” Cuomo said.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of France, the families who have lost loved ones, and all those grieving around the world," he said.

Mayor de Blasio took to Facebook to condemn the attack and send condolences to France.

"Sickened by news of another senseless attack. On this Bastille Day we are all patriots of France. Nice, we are with you," de Blasio wrote in a post that included a candle emblazoned with the French flag.

For French expatriates, what was supposed to be a joyful Bastille Day celebration at the French consulate turned into a solemn realization that their homeland had been attacked yet again. 

Expatriates were celebrating at the consulate when the consul general walked in with tears streaming down his face to announce that dozens had been killed in Nice. 

"It's a very sad day for us, for France," said Catherine Demait-Harper, who was at the consulate for Bastille Day. "We didn't serve any champagne because that was certainly not appropriate. It was very disturbing." 

"Everybody was very sad. Everybody was thinking about the victims and the people who died," said Herve Riou outside the consulate. 

As night fell, the Helmsley Building above Grand Central Terminal lit up the colors of the French flag. Eight months ago it was also lit up in the colors to pay tribute to those killed in the November terrorist attacks that claimed 130 lives in Paris. 

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