Big Brother coming to Midtown Manhattan
On the one hand, Manhattan must be protected and vigilant against terrorist attacks. On the other, spending 24 million to bring this type of surveillance to Midtown Manhattan seems troubling.
From the New York Daily News, this story raises questions about the collection of data on millions of New Yorkers who are not terrorists. Finding the balance is the proper role of a democracy which cares about its civil liberties. If I am caught on camera with certain people who are not terrorists but whom I may not want co-workers to know of, where does this fall?
The "Ring of Steel" security plan is coming to midtown.
The Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and theUnited Nations will be surrounded with cameras, license-plate readers and chemical-weapons detectors under the new plan to go in effect by 2011.
The eye-in-the-sky security gadgets that police now use to scan lower Manhattan will also be used in midtown, thanks to $24 million in federal Homeland Security funds.
"We will spend as much as necessary in either federal or city funds to complete this project and protect New York," Mayor Bloomberg said as he announced the program yesterday. "This is our No. 1 priority, and it comes before all fiscal concerns."
The city launched its lower Manhattan program, modeled onLondon's "Ring of Steel," in 2006. It set up a command center in the Financial District last year, where police and other security officials review a constant flow of images and information from the streets.
The command center will also review the data supplied by the new midtown system, which will blanket the area from 30th to 60th Sts., from river to river.
"We started in lower Manhattan for obvious reasons," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "We're concerned as well about [midtown] ... where there are major infrastructure and, of course, large crowds of people."
Privacy advocates question the value of cameras that mostly capture mundane street life and don't necessarily prevent crime.
"There's no information with regard to who has access to the information, exactly what's being collected, how long it's being kept and whether it's been digitized into a massive database on the innocent and lawful comings and goings of millions of New Yorkers and visitors," said New York Civil Liberties Union Director Donna Lieberman.
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Clearlake, California, United States