PlaNYC Testimony Live on NY1 Right Now

Mayor Bloomberg is presenting his plan for a greater greener New York at the first in a series of Assembly hearings today, where he is pitching his congestion pricing plan, among other aspects of his proposal for a sustainable city. DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller got a nice introduction at the start. Watch it live online.

Westchester Assembly Member Richard Brodsky just said that putting traffic cameras on the streets of New York City is "Un-American." Oy.  

  • Perhaps he could form a legislative committee to root out all the things he thinks are Unamerican…

  • Steve

    What does he think of the thousands of cameras already being used to monitor civilians on the sidewalk? OK, because the only consituents of his he cares about take cars into the city ?

  • Bloomberg pointed out that the government is already collecting and holding lots of highly sensitive, private data about U.S. citizens. It’s called income tax returns.

  • ddartley

    I appreciate libertarian objections to cameras, even cameras I want, such as traffic cameras. All you have to do is legislate that the data that such cameras collect must be destroyed periodically.

    Every day, the video that was recorded, say, two weeks ago, gets destroyed, and in a way that privacy-minded citizens (such as, ostensibly, Brodsky) can observe. If such video is being used in a legal matter, it can be preserved until it’s no longer needed, and then destroyed. Or, hell, in a further concession to libertarians, it could be required that the video gets destroyed after a certain period even IF it’s being used in a legal matter.

  • Steve

    Good point, dartley. In the original PlaNYC documents, there is a statement that the data collected by CP and BRt cameras would be kept only as long as necessary to ensure payment, and then destroyed. However I can’t find anything in the draft bill posted yesterday that addresses the retention/privacy issue.

  • Well, I am interested in way that we can protect the privacy both of folks who drive and of those of us who don’t. Just because there are already a number of horrid privacy invasions, I don’t support adding more.

    So I would indeed be interested if Mr Brodsky could come up with a privacy-enhancing way to implement congestion pricing. (Maybe while he’s at it, he could come up with a way to reduce the privacy-invasion of the Metrocard.) But I have a feeling that his whining is just an excuse.

  • Privacy Nut

    As a big proponent of congestion pricing, I think that for some activists the controversy is going to be in the implementation. Such a large network of cameras and image processing systems can pose a tremendous threat to privacy and civil liberties if not stringently regulated. I don’t take much issue with such a system being used in legitimate terror cases (such as in tracking a truck known to carry a bomb) but as we have seen with the use of domestic spying and helicopters equipped with infrared cameras in the case of the Critical Mass bike rides, such a system has tremendous potential for abuse.

    Rather than pretend that Ray Kelly and friends will obey the law here, let’s take legislative steps to ensure that the system is always under the ultimate control of civilian operators, that there is a high standard for its use in police work, that there are independent watchdogs in place to make sure such standards are adhered to, and that misuse of the system by any official carries jail time.

    The possibilities here for non-motorist tracking are endless, particularly with such a large budget and the amazing advances that have been made in image processing in recent years. You can safely bet that the same software, if not the same system will be applied in mass transit, office buildings, parks, and other contexts. It’s an authoritarian politician’s wet dream, and bound to happen. Let’s recognize this as a reality that comes with technological advances and instead focus on regulating the potential for abuse, not pretending it wont happen.

    As a side note, EZ Pass has been used in divorce cases. I think we all want to see a higher standard invoked before our privacy can so easily violated.

  • d

    Anyone who’s ever tuned into a traffic report on the local news knows that there are already hundreds, if not thousands of traffic cameras installed on the city’s bridges, in tunnels, and around major toll plazas. Such cameras are generally capable of getting clear shots of license plates and car interiors. I’d imagine that this technology is also set up along the Garden State Parkway and on some roadways in Westchester where tolls are collected.

    I can’t recall hearing any politicians objecting to the installation of these cameras and I have yet to hear any elected official explain how they are any different, in theory or in practice, from the cameras that would be needed to enforce congestion pricing.

  • The video/cameras aren’t the biggest privacy concern, it’s the data that says who went where and when (that I doubt will be so quickly purged). It bothers me too, but then personal cars are not the only way to get around the congestion zone. They’re the worst of a dozen ways. To all the other reasons not to drive in Manhattan, we can add making your life an open book to the government. (This is already true to some extent of course.) So, um, don’t drive?

    This might be inconvenient for organized crime though; I doubt they’re such enthusiastic pedestrians, cyclists, and train riders.

  • Zam

    I think the privacy argument is mostly absurd.

    I truly hope that one of the results of congestion pricing is that motorists expectation of privacy is absolutely obliterated. In their comfy and increasingly large living rooms on wheels, motorists are lulled into thinking that their cars are private space. This, in my opinion, results in all kinds of sociopathic behavior on NYC streets because. While the inteior of the car might be private space, the vehicle itself is moving through the public realm though, very often, with little to no regard for that fact.

    Do you have an expectation of privacy when you are riding the subway or bus or even walking on the sidewalk? I don’t. I am aware that I am among other people, strangers, my fellow citizens. I’m aware that I’m in the public realm and I behave in a way that is socially acceptable in the public realm. I don’t scream "honk!!!!" at people walking three feet away from me. I don’t intimidate people or blow cigarette smoke in the faces of children in strollers. I don’t smash into other pedestrians at 25 mph.

    So, I will be very happy when the day arrives that motorists no longer have the expectation of privacy. Bring on the cameras.

  • d

    I also think the idea that these politicians are interested in protecting the privacy of their constituents is absurd, hence their silence on cameras in places where access is currently free. They are interested in scoring political points with the people who don’t want to cough up the eight bucks to enter the city, and are grasping at straws to mount some sort of opposition to a sensible policy.

  • (Mike, isn’t a metrocard bought with cash pretty anonymous? Unless a person is already under investigation and basically has no privacy in general. A cash card seems like a good option for those who care about privacy more than convenience and membership rewards or whatever. Actually I think I’m going to start buying mine in cash now.)

  • rhubarbpie

    The huge number of cameras should be a concern to anyone, and I think Brodsky and other assembly members are right to raise this question. Even with the strictest controls — and it’s unclear what the controls would be, at this point — there’s a potential for real abuse. And Mayor Bloomberg’s record on civil liberties is not stellar, adding to my own ill ease. (And the previous mayor’s record was even worse. The next mayor could respect your civil rights, but don’t bet on it.)

    I understand that my privacy is not assured when I walk or drive the streets, but that does not mean that there shouldn’t be some protections and attempts to reduce the intrusions of government and businesses.

    This is a massive increase in monitoring. Is it enough of a reason to reject congestion pricing? Not in my book, but I definitely understand the objections and want to see precisely how the city plans to deal with them.

  • An ancillary benefit of congestion pricing will be setting a camera precedent. As it is now, NYS legislators thwart all attempts by the City to expand use of cameras to control speeding. Wouldn’t it be great if the same cameras could do both??

  • Steve

    i spoke today with a staffmember with Senator Liz Kruger about some of the apparent holes in the draft bill. He seemed surprised that the bill did not address the details of what consituted an intra-zone trip (for example, must one travel at least x number of blocks). He recalled Deputy Mayor Doctoroff explaining at an earlier briefing that the charge would be applied to intra-zone trips only if they triggered at least two transponders within the zone within a specified period of time.

    I would expect the NYS Assemblymembers and Senators to demand that those kinds of details get resolved before they endorse. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done on this in a very short period of time.

  • JK

    Too bad the mayor didn’t throw the fareness/regressivity issue back at Brodsky et al and ask them what was fare about asking an impoverished, fixed income young mom to pay $4 to take a non-polluting, non-congesting subway from Queens to Manhattan while the car owning, “middle class” guy gets a free ride on city bridges that were renovated with billions of dollars in general tax revenue.

    Nor did the mayor make the point that the “middle class” guy’s car is busy wasting the time of people in buses, ambulances etc. But the idea that time is money is probably too much to expect the legislature to absorb.

    It’s also too bad that the mayor’s point about cell phone location seems not to have registered on anyone, including people on this blog. I’m not sure why it’s worse for the City to collect license plate data when TMobile, Verizon, ATT etc know exactly where you are, in or out of your car. You trust big corporations with your exact location but freak about license plate camera data held by the same people that already have your tax return, DOB, social and everything else they need to completely invade your privacy anyway. Doesn’t make much sense. Incidentally, if Brodsky is so worried about motorist privacy he should crusade against the state selling license plate and registration info to unscrupulous on-line data miners.


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