Key Control Practices In Place at NY Port Authority

The Port Authority - which suffered several serious security breaches this year - has very strict procedures for keeping track of its master keys so they don't get into the wrong hands, sources said yesterday.

This week The Post reported that a New Jersey man was selling FDNY keys that could cause mayhem - like trapping people in elevators and changing traffic signals - to anyone who could pay $150.

But the security lapses that allowed those keys to be available for sale on eBay likely wouldn't happen at the PA, which closely regulates how its keys are distributed and monitors who gets them, sources claimed.

The PA keys open sensitive pathways inside the agency's airports, bridges and tunnels - which include JFK, the Lincoln Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge, sources said.

The PA records the number of keys it distributes to each of its workers - the number of keys depends on a worker's security level, one insider explained.

"We're pretty thorough when it comes to that. We are more security-conscious than most agencies because of our history, having been attacked twice, and because we have a number of attractive hard targets," said one senior PA employee.

Certain keys - those that provide access to highly ­restricted areas - are collected from workers several times yearly.

Once that happens, the locks are changed and new keys are redistributed through a quartermaster.

Also, PA locksmiths engrave numbers on the keys specific to employees receiving them - along with warnings to commercial locksmiths not to copy them, a source explained.

If an employee loses a key, officials can quickly match the engraved number with the worker's identity - and they'll likely be docked up to a month's vacation days, a source added.

The PA also requires workers to surrender keys once they retire.

On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg said he'd try to plug the legal loophole ­allowing anyone to buy the city keys - FDNY employees currently don't have to return their keys upon ­retirement.

The city keys can also be easily duplicated.

Earlier this year, the PA came under fire for other kinds of lapses - when a fence protecting a giant fuel pipeline was unlocked and when a jet skier accidentally gained access to JFK Airport's runways.

philip.messing@nypost.com

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