Given the time period (2002), this is a clear reference to the then recent terrorist attack that leveled the World Trade Towers in NYC (usually referred to as 9/11, referring to the day in 2001 when it happened).
I cried a thousand times for those who lost their lives up in NYC
Friends underneath remains from such a dirty game
Looks like world war 3
Picking up the pieces while we try to make some sense of it all - can we?
Dont't you try to underscore the nature of it all with your sympathy
You wouldn't need to be a part of a New York subculture to have resonated with these lyrics at that time. It was a seismic event across the United States, and had a global impact. However, given that they were based in New York, it's possible that they literally had friends who perished in the attack.