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Wednesday’s Headlines: A Camera (Actually, Two!) in Every Subway Car Edition

12:03 AM EDT on September 21, 2022

MTA CEO Janno Lieber with Gov. Hochul on Tuesday. Photo: MTA (with help from the Streetsblog 1984 Desk)

The big story yesterday was Big Brother.

Gov. Hochul announced that she would install camera systems in every single subway car — and if you think the lede of this article is an overstatement, here's what the governor said:

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subways? You’re absolutely right — that is our intent,” she said. “That is going to give people great peace of mind.”

Of course, peace of mind can mean a million things to a million people. For the New York City press corps, it means only that they get to hammer home their narrative about how New Yorkers are so afraid of subterranean crime:

    • "to stamp out a pandemic surge in crime" (NYDN)
    • "crimes intensified fears that were keeping workers from returning to their offices after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic" (NY Times)
    • "The cameras — which are hidden from public view — are not connected to a central server and cannot be monitored 24/7, but are instead intended to be used by cops to pull evidence of crimes or other incidents that may occur underground" (NY Post)
    • "The new policy ... is being made to ease commuter fears about crime on the subway system following a slew of violent incidents in the last year" (Crain's)
    • "Overall, transit accounts for a mere 1.8% of the city’s overall crime, but riders continue to list personal safety as a top concern" (amNY, in the most balanced account of any)
    • "The devices will help straphangers feel safe" (Gothamist)

Crime is a funny narrative though, because it's so easily debunked that even the Times had to rowback from its own story, dutifully reporting that the Partnership for New York City polled office workers and found that only 24 percent cited crime as the reason they don't take the subway anymore.

Indeed, even the MTA's own surveys show that riders really just want impeccable, quick service, as Hell Gate reported on Monday.

And speaking of cameras, it's great that the governor can just wake up and decide to put surveillance equipment on every one of the 6,000 subway trains in New York. But when New Yorkers, tired of the daily trauma of intimidation by drivers, ask simply for more red-light cameras than the 150 currently permitted by law, suddenly there's all kinds of hoops we have to jump.

In other news from another slow day:

    • Here are your worst subway stations (NY Post) and worst lines (Gothamist).
    • Hell Gate took a gimlet-eyed view of the mayor's decision to push a park instead of more transit for Queens.
    • The Times took a look at the coming battle to draw new district lines for the City Council.
    • Get ready for some F-train hell, Southern Brooklyn commuters. (Brooklyn Paper)
    • And, finally, from the assignment desk: On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., a panoply of Brooklyn pols (Council Member Lincoln Restler, the Borough President Antonio Reynoso and others) will rally at Borough Hall in support of congestion pricing. So, yes, there are plenty of "outer-borough" residents who support reducing traffic in Manhattan and raising money for transit.

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