The heinous FALN bomb attack on Fraunces Tavern on Jan. 24, 1975, first brought terror home to modern-day New York City. Let’s not forget this on Sunday, June 10, when remorse-free FALN mastermind Oscar López Rivera — turned loose by former President Barack Obama after serving half of his 70-year prison sentence — marches in the Puerto Rican Day Parade at the charmed invitation of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
There’s good reason why Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told The Post that the invitation to López Rivera was “beyond comprehension.”
Most of us New Yorkers in 1975 naively believed random slaughter in service of political lunacy was a distant problem that didn’t concern us. Palestinian zealots murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics and hijacked airliners all over the Middle East and Europe. Kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and her SLA cohorts shot up a bank in San Francisco — but lethal terrorism just couldn’t happen in New York.
Some amateurish, small-scale terrorist efforts prior to 1975 fortunately killed no one. Other plots were foiled before they could happen. The FALN atrocities shook us out of our complacency — for a time.
A decade of middle-class flight left the city mainly to a handful of the very rich and legions of the very poor. In between were mostly young, ambitious, artsy-minded types for whom crumbling streets and ruined neighborhoods made a romantic backdrop for adventure. Times Square squalor was merely colorful. But nobody counted on senseless atrocities perpetrated by agents of foreign powers.
The NYPD and FBI found numerous, poorly made unexploded bombs around town prior to the Fraunces Tavern bombing. But the lunchtime attack, which killed four people and injured 50 more, was clearly the work of trained professionals.
The FALN wanted Puerto Rican independence — a cause embraced by no one in New York or in Puerto Rico. In a 1967 referendum, 60.4 percent of island residents voted for continued commonwealth status; 39 percent for statehood; and a scant 0.6 percent for independence. But FALN made no pretense of being a grass-roots movement; it was a Marxist neo-insurgency aligned with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who sought to dislodge legitimate governments in South and Central America and the Caribbean. FALN’s dream for Puerto Rican “independence” was a replica of Communist Cuba.
An FALN member told The Associated Press that historic landmark Fraunces Tavern restaurant had been chosen as the target to kill “reactionary corporate executives” who lunched there. A written message warned New York, “You have unleashed a storm from which you comfortable Yankis [sic] cannot escape.” (Although López Rivera didn’t light the fuse himself, he was super-high-up in the organization and has not renounced terrorism since the attack.)
The FALN struck again in April, planting bombs at four Manhattan locations that killed no one. A bomb at La Guardia Airport in December killed 11; Croatian separatists were suspected but the case was never solved. There were further non-lethal but destructive bombings by FALN in 1982 and 1983. After those, the threat seemed to recede. New Yorkers were more vexed by fleeing business, skyrocketing crime, the burning Bronx and the AIDS explosion than by terrorism fears — until the Feb. 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Things seem different since 9/11, of course. Today we don’t recoil from the sight of cops and soldiers toting machine guns at landmarks like Grand Central Terminal. We “say something if we see something.” Yet, even now, we might not have learned our lesson.
Not militants, but voters — many of whom lived through the hell of 9/11 — elected Mark-Viverito to office. Her council colleagues elevated her to the speaker role despite her public embrace of the nihilist Occupy Wall Street movement and her snubbing of the Pledge of Allegiance. They held their noses over her deifying of López Rivera because, one council member told The Post, they feared objecting would “make her mad” and lose her support for projects in their districts.
Profiles in courage, 2017-style.
Terrorism has many roots and causes, but it thrives in part because the world’s Mark-Viveritos enable it — and the rest of us let those of her kind get away with it.