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Thread: Subway Officials Seek Ban on Picture-Taking

  1. #1

    Default Subway Officials Seek Ban on Picture-Taking

    May 21, 2004

    Subway Officials Seek Ban on Picture-Taking

    By ROBERT D. McFADDEN


    Philippe Sabathe, a tourist from Paris, taking pictures yesterday, something that, in a year's time, might be forbidden in New York's underground.

    Citing the security of 7 million daily riders, 48,000 employees and its transportation network, New York City Transit yesterday proposed a ban on unauthorized photography, filming and videotaping on city subways, buses and Staten Island Railway trains. The press and businesses or individuals with permits would be exempt.

    Transit officials also proposed a tougher rule against turnstile jumping, banning it even if a miscreant has a fare card and acts out of frustration when the card or a turnstile malfunctions, and they suggested new rules against walking between subway cars, putting feet on seats and misusing student or senior reduced-fare cards.

    If approved by New York City Transit's parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, next fall after a public-comment period, the changes would become the system's first new rules of conduct in a decade, joining prohibitions against graffiti, littering, spitting, smoking, panhandling, loud radio playing, drinking alcoholic beverages and going onto subway tracks or into tunnels or other unauthorized areas.

    "The world we live in has changed dramatically since 1994, so has our operating environment," said Lawrence G. Reuter, president of New York City Transit. "These changes to our rules of conduct are intended to enhance security and safety, not only for our customers but our employees as well."

    The proposed ban on photography, filming and videotaping drew immediate objections from the New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign. "We think it's a mistake to turn the subways into a scary underground where you can't take pictures," said Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer. "We respect the need for security in the transit system but believe that there are important values in having photographers document life and conditions on the subways and buses."

    He noted that the M.T.A. was sponsoring an exhibition at Grand Central Terminal of photos taken over decades of life in the subways.

    Mr. Russianoff said the proposed ban on picture-taking could raise First Amendment issues as well. While members of the press with identity cards issued by the police would be exempt, other people and businesses would need written permission. "No standards are detailed in the proposed rules for issuing such authorizations," he said.

    But Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for New York City Transit, brushed aside such objections. He said any person or commercial enterprise with legitimate needs, including film and television producers, advertisers, artists and others, "would all be allowed" to take pictures as long as they obtained written permission in advance.

    While transit officers would make common-sense judgments about issuing summonses to tourists who take pictures without knowing the rules, even visitors would be subject to fines, Mr. Seaton said, although there is no provision for confiscation of cameras. He said taking a picture or filming without authorization would be subject to a relatively low $25 fine.

    Spitting, smoking and littering carry a $50 fine, he said, while vandalism and other more serious offenses are subject to penalties of $100 or more.

    The rules of conduct on the transit system are as old as the subways, which mark their centennial this year. Officials acknowledge that enforcement has always been something of a problem, with a few thousand officers responsible for 468 stations, 660 miles of track and a vast network of bus routes. The use of cellphone and other miniature cameras may also complicate enforcement of a photography ban.

    But Mr. Seaton noted that this would not be the first ban on filming and picture-taking in the city subways. One was imposed in the early 1930's, he said, for reasons that are no longer clear, and was in force until 1994, when transit officials decided to relax it after embarrassing news reports that a woman had been given a summons for taking a picture on a subway in the Bronx.

    Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the bombing that killed hundreds on a commuter train in Madrid earlier this year, tighter security has been a high priority, Mr. Seaton said. The other proposed rule changes are also needed, he said.

    After the proposed rules are published in the New York State Register early next month, a 45-day period of public comment would ensue. Modifications might then be offered. Finally, New York City Transit would seek final approval by the board of the M.T.A. The board does not meet in August, but would probably consider the rules in September or October.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Banning photos on the subway will do nothing. If someone wanted to take photos w/o being seen, there are ways, this is just preventing the casual photographer.

    As for Turnstyle Jumpers, there should be a provision in there that anyone caught doing that should be charged double if they cannot prove the machine was not working.

    If they have no proof of even trying (no card/etc) then it is a deliberate attempt to jump it.

    the thing is, most people who jump out of frustration do so because there is noone there to help OR because they are late already. Simply stopping them and making them more late is punishment enough.....

  3. #3

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    This is giving the terrorists ideas. Ninjahedge you’re so right.

  4. #4

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    When I was in NY lats month me and my father pondered the idea of why they dont have detectors you walk through when you enter the subway? It seems so easy for a "Madrid Scene" to me.

  5. #5

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    In addition to the lack of metal detectors in the subway, there isn't anyone to check the people who would set them off.

  6. #6

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    Thats another thing that would be useful. Not so much of a metal detector but a x-ray screening device. It would screen the whole person, somewhat like what your luggage goes through at an airport. And if anything odd comes through discreetlty pull them aside and check it out. This would in my opinion a good way to avoid a madrid like attack later on. I believe this would be quick and easy too.

  7. #7

    Default losing the war on terror

    Have the terrorists won? :?

    If a terrorist blows up a supermarket, will we all clamor for metal detectors in supermarkets? What about a Zoo; "Photos of the animals will no longer be allowed." ABSURD!

    Will there be a moratorium on pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge?

    People using the transit system as a sightseeing mechanism, can no loger take photos from bus and train windows?!!!!

    The terrorists have won!

  8. #8

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    Yet another case of the good guys being punished in the name of stopping the bad guys. Banning photos? It's getting out of hand. Our subways are really a tourist attraction in themselves. Jasonik is exactly right---what's next, no photos of bridges? Or Broadway? Besides, terrorists could easily search on the internet without even leaving their hideouts for subway pictures, maps, structural info, etc.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ILUVNYC
    Thats another thing that would be useful. Not so much of a metal detector but a x-ray screening device. It would screen the whole person, somewhat like what your luggage goes through at an airport. And if anything odd comes through discreetlty pull them aside and check it out. This would in my opinion a good way to avoid a madrid like attack later on. I believe this would be quick and easy too.
    NYC subways move the entire city of Los Angeles every day, not once, but twice. Are you sure it would be quick and easy.

    Besides X-rays are a health hazard, much worse than second-hand smoke.
    :P

  10. #10
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    Pictures have no impact. Plans and pictures are widely available online. The proposal is pointless.

  11. #11

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    It's already been implemented in Boston. I was taking pictures in the Kendall Square station and before I even got a shot off the woman came out of the toll booth and started yelling at me. I told her it was a ridiculous policy. I mean, a sixteen year old kid dressed in a v-neck and khakis (for a college visit... ugh) is a terrorist? She threatened to call the police (yes, that's right), so I put the camera away, walked a few yards down the platform, and resumed photographing. F*** them. I'm not going to be a slave to fear-mongering.

  12. #12

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    May 22, 2004

    Police Waste No Time in Disallowing Subway Photos

    By SHERRI DAY

    Seconds after Stephen McCurry hoisted his video camera onto his shoulder yesterday afternoon in the Times Square subway station, two police officers rushed to his side and sternly told him to stop filming.

    Mr. McCurry, it seems, was nearly breaking the law.

    The police officers, who would not give their names, said they had been ordered to enforce a spate of proposed changes to subway rules, which include no turnstile jumping, riding between subway cars or taking pictures with still or video cameras.

    This even though the proposals, announced on Thursday, will not be voted on by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority until the fall.

    Mr. McCurry, 33, an independent filmmaker from Los Angeles who heard about New York City Transit's proposed rule changes earlier in the day, said he was unfazed.

    "I'm just going to go elsewhere in the city," he said. "You just get chased out of one place, and you go to the next."

    Police officers at subway stations around the city said yesterday that they had been closely monitoring shutterbugs since Sept. 11, 2001. A police spokesman said last night that officers have the right to stop people "impeding the flow of the transit system"; for example, taking a flash photograph of an incoming train or setting up a tripod in a station.

    Sometimes, the officers said, they ask picture takers and home videographers to stop, particularly if they appeared to be photographing subway tunnels or other infrastructure. But if the subject of the photo is a group of tourists or a smiling police officer, "it's no big deal," an officer at Grand Central said.

    Unlike Mr. McCurry, many tourists seeking a photographic keepsake of New York City's subways yesterday afternoon were unaware that the price of taking pictures on the city's trains and buses might soon include a $25 fine. Few tourists said they would be willing to break the law to take home photographs of New York City's transportation system.

    "If it's for safety reasons, I would not object too much even though it may sound a bit silly," said Jack Melcher-Claesson, 33, an online sales manager from Sweden. His girlfriend, Cilla Holm, stood nearby and eagerly snapped pictures of Julio Diaz and Lupita, his mannequin, doing their salsa dance routine in the Times Square station.

    "Typical America," Ms. Holm said when she heard that she had nearly committed a violation. "We're from Sweden, where everything is allowed."

    Cory Cisler, a professional drummer, vowed to stop taking pictures in the subway if it meant that he would be breaking the law. But, he said, the police would probably have a difficult time enforcing the rule.

    "I don't think it's going to stop all these people," he said. "Aren't there more important things to keep an eye on?"

    For Robert and Lilian Chambers, natives of Dublin who have spent much of the week photographing popular tourist attractions, a signpost in the Chambers Street subway station was their brass ring. The station, after all, shares their name.

    But the couple, who had just finished taking pictures inside the station when told of the proposed changes, said they felt entitled to take the photographs.

    "I own the name anyway," said Mr. Chambers, 55, a hairstylist.



    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  13. #13

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    nycsubway.org Without Photos?

    Yes, if a ban on subway photography as proposed by the MTA is enacted. The current rule, if not always properly enforced, is that amateur photography without lights and ancillary equipment, is permitted under New York State Compilation Codes, Rules and Regulations section 1050.9(c). However, on May 20th, 2004, New York City Transit proposed a ban on amateur photography and videotaping, citing "security concerns".

    In the New York Times on May 21st, NYCT spokesman Charles F. Seaton was quick to point out that press card holders are exempt, and "commercial enterprises" with "legitimate needs" would be allowed to take pictures with permission obtained in advance. But that's the same as the CURRENT policy for press and commercial enterprises. Given that the MTA charges for commercial photo and film shoots, they want to make it clear that they are not going to sacrifice a revenue stream in the name of enhanced security. We can all see what that means: "Individuals don't have big business to support them. We can hassle them with impunity!"

    A secondary reason for such a ban which is mentioned frequently is that they are trying to prevent documentation of real security risks, shoddy working conditions, safety hazards, lazy workers, and other more serious rules violations. This may be a minor side effect but one must consider possible hidden agendas.

    The madness doesn't just extend to New York City. New Jersey Transit has also enacted such a ban, even so far as having police detain and question people taking photos of NJT trains from PUBLIC STREETS. No trespassing was involved, no laws were broken. This has affected regular users of this very web site. Was their camera taken? No. Were they arrested? No. Charged? No. So, no harm no foul right? Well, if you consider being taken into custody, deprived due process and Miranda rights, interviewed by local terrorism agents, "all right". One person's story is here.

    Speaking of due process rights violations, how is such a ban going to be enforced? It is impossible to detect every single camera without a physical search -- small camera phones aren't even near to what is on the cutting edge commercially. If you're a bad guy, won't you have such a camera, which no one will notice anyway? Only honest people will be stopped.

    An interesting unanswered question is: "Why prevent only NEW photography?" Is this a prelude to even more bans, this time on web sites? nycsubway.org includes over 11,000 photos of the subway lines, past and present, and over 17,000 more of transit systems worldwide. Should these be considered historical documents or a source of information to terrorists? Webmasters and contributors could even be labeled terrorist facilitators. Even the Library of Congress has close up, detailed photos of key structures and bridges, "soft targets". Will the government aim to censor the Library of Congress? It doesn't even have to be the government. Any legal action by MTA lawyers to "encourage" rail fan web sites to shut down in the name of security will cost a fortune to defend against. Short of support from an organization like the ACLU, many sites will fold. Permitting a ban on NEW photography is another step toward removal of ALL of these websites, in the name of "security".

    Special events like the New York Transit Museum and the NYCT Subdivision C nostalgia train excursions for charity are at risk. Of course, not all riders of such trains are photographers, but these trips often include scheduled "photo stops", run-by's, yard visits, and other things specifically aimed at allowing photographers good views. The thought is, why go if photography will all of a sudden be illegal?

    The New York Transit Museum, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress have the means and need to SPEAK OUT, now. But what, then, can individual railfans do to support the cause? Watch this space as options are considered.

    www.nycsubway.org

  14. #14
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    Righto, today or tomorrow when I'm on the Q I'll take as many shots as I like.

  15. #15

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    Who's come out against it?

    Mayor Bloomberg. 1010-WINS radio reports he "blasted" the proposed ban, but quoted him as saying merely "...if there are some tourists and they want to take pictures of each other on the subway train -- come on, get real." Not much of a blast, but at least he's publically against the ban.

    The New York Civil Liberties Union. As quoted in the New York Daily News, May 22nd. "Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the photo ban 'grossly excessive.' 'There is no reason a tourist taking a snapshot in a subway car should be interrogated by the police or face the prospect of being taken into custody,' he added."

    New York Newsday. Editorial on May 22nd: "Security issues didn't stop NYC Transit from shuttering some of its subway token booths last year and removing the clerks who help keep an eye on the system. But now officials, claiming security reasons, want to restrict photography on subways and buses. However admirable their concern for public safety, the proposal would serve no purpose other than to deprive locals and tourists of the chance to capture an irreplaceable New York City experience.... preventing [terrorists] from photographing or filming subway images won't keep them from plying their trade."

    www.nycsubway.org

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