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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Photography Banned in Stuyvesant Town?



Suddenly, this is now a hot question being asked on Lux Living's blog and this one. It appears that individuals have been told yesterday and today by Stuyvesant Town security that taking photos of the property is a "no-no." At this point, I haven't heard anything official from the landlord, Tishman Speyer, about this supposed new policy, so until notices are posted, on the grounds and in buildings, this new rule is rather flimsy and just based on security's understanding (ie, misunderstanding) of some directive from the Management Office.

I've done some internet searching on the topic of taking photographs in a public/private area, and the conclusion reached by the writers I've read is that one is certainly allowed to take photos in a public place (of anything and anyone), and even in a private area, where the only "no-no" is being on the grounds if you are trespassing.

As one website states:

"Trespassing is the act of being on property without permission from the owner or lessee. Note that this is about where you are, not what you're doing -- trespassing is legally separate from photography. You can be illegally trespassing and still be legally taking photographs."

My impression is that Tishman Speyer is upset by the photographs of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village that have been appearing on this blog and on Lux Living's blog, and that in an effort to stop more of such photos (which, after all, only show the property as it is) the company is trying to put an intimidation squeeze on those who photograph the property. The fact that a security guard demanded to know of one photographer whether he was a resident hints that the only enforcement possible is to escort a non-resident off the property if he or she is taking a photograph in this private community. (Though many times this is an open community, as witnessed by the various events in which outsiders are encouraged to enter Stuyvesant Town, so even then the law may be vague for a non-resident.) Using the non-resident rule (if it is indeed applicable here), Tishman Speyer hopes to cloudy the matter and imply that residents also are not allowed to photograph the property, which appears to be BULLSHIT at this point in time.

My recommendation for residents is to continue taking photographs as you would normally, for whatever purpose, and if you are confronted by a security guard press the matter. Ask to see his supervisor, remember what is being said and GET NAMES. If you have to go to the Management Office, do so, and remember what is said to you there and take down the name of the person who spoke to you. I will gladly post this information here.

You should also feel free to contact the Town & Village newspaper with your story. Editor Sabina Mollot's e-mail is editor@townvillage.net, and the phone number to T & V should be 212-777-6611.

One more point: Under NO CIRCUMSTANCE is a security guard allowed to confiscate or destroy your camera or take it away temporarily to erase what you have photographed. This is an illegal act on his part.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would just add that if anyone is confronted by a security guard, whether resident or nonresident, that that person also contact Dan Garodnick's office.

These security officers, who are officially called "PSOs" or "Public Safety Officers" do NOT have ANY of the powers or authority vested in a real police officer, for example, they have no powers of arrest beyond those that every private citizen has (which is to say, none). They will act as if they do have such authority, and their uniforms and badges make them look like real police officers, thus clothing them with apparent authority equal to that of a real police officer. However, they are not, and the uniforms and badges serve only to muddy the waters and make it possible for private employers like Tishman Speyer to co-opt the legimitate police power of the City of New York and pervert it for private purposes.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no way for any member of the public to actually determine the status and lawful authority of a P.S.O. as no such information is available from the City's website or the NYPD's website.

I would end by saying that, as structured, the Public Safety Officer program creates an inherent conflict of interest between a PSO's private financial interest and duty of loyalty to his employer and his public duties and obligations to the public at large, including the obligation of all state actors to respect Constitutional rights, rights that a purely private actor need not respect, and that this deserves the attention of the City Council. If anyone feels similarly, I would ask that they also contact their City Council members and request that the current status and rules governing the Public Safety Officer program be reviewed.

Anonymous said...

Some of these guards are designated as "Special Patrolman", and I've never been quite clear as to what police powers they actually have. It's a fairly new designation, and hard to find much info on.

Yes, they can write parking tickets, but so can Traffic Enforcement Agents, and TEAs are definitely not "police".

The uniforms have always been exact replicas of NYPD. Obviously, it's not a coincidence; I always assumed it was intended a crime deterrent - having uniformed security on the grounds that can't be distinguished from the Real Thing at 100 feet oughta discourage any criminal activity - at least when they're visible, which they aren't anymore!

Anonymous said...

There seem to be any number of different designations these types receive, and there is almost no publicly available info on what these designations mean, and what powers are conferred upon the designees.

Finally, the point about the intentionally confusing uniforms bears heavy repetition, because that results in them having apparent authority - that is, if it walks like a cop, talks like a cop, and dresses like a cop, then for all practical intents it is a cop, regardless of what the actual powers conferred on the subject are, at least when it comes to measuring the Constitutional standards applicable to the actions taken by such a designee.

Anonymous said...

It only struts like a cop when it's harrassing people for no good reason. When it's called because of coked up cretins partying at 4 am, it is a little girl wuss.

Anonymous said...

Some (but not all) of the ST/PCV security staff have been given training and then designated as "Peace Officers". This was done under former finance commissioner Andrew Eristoff who represented the district in the City Council, and was quite cozy with Met Life.

Security guards can be trained to hold NY State Certified Peace Officer Status and NYC Special Patrolman Status (Write A,B,C summonses, make and process your own arrests) and can be (or not) granted power to carry sidearms.

For example, Co-Op City has a full Peace Officer force that functions as an armed patrol force with all the power and effectiveness of the NYPD (including their own EMT's). Co-Op City's Public Safety Officers have Special Patrolmen status authorized by the city and state. With Special Patrolmen status, officers have peace officer powers while on duty, but do not have powers beyond a citizen while off duty. With peace officer powers, officers can make warrantless arrests, carry a firearm, carry and use handcuffs, and use physical and deadly force. In 2008, the City of New York granted Co-op City Public Safety officers the authority to issue parking summonses to illegally parked vehicles on Co-op City property.

I would be cautious about making generalized assumptions, but do agree that the individual status of the ST/PCV force is ambiguous at best, and a clear conflict of interest at worst.

Perhaps a discussion at a higher level within city government would be appropriate to determine if the force is adequately supervised and performing within the the standards of law.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the last poster that there should be an discussion at a higher level to determine just what and what not falls within the legitimate powers of the PCV Public Safety Officers. They seem to me to be little more than a goon squad.

Anonymous said...

This is crazy. Security is supposed to keep this place safe, not harass residents. It's normal to take pictures. It's not normal to make fake rules and have fake police to enforce them. It's insane.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the need for consideration of the broader issues regarding the apparently mushrooming variety of not-quite-cops who have some sort of imprimatur from the City.

With respect to the uniforms, I would just point out that, as late as 2006 (when we moved in) security under MetLife wore white shirts and could not be confused with a bona-fide NYC police officer at any distance. Nonetheless, they managed to do quite a decent job of keeping actual peace and security, certainly much better than the lackluster record of our current crop of supposedly "vetted" officers.

That fact alone should indicate that the need for PSOs, Peace Officers, TEAs, and whatever other variants there are, to look exactly like real police officers in order to effectively carry out their mission(s) is questionable at best, and patently false at worst.

Since requiring clearly distinguishable uniforms is unlikely to materially hamper the effectiveness of these folks, and would at the same time make it substantially easier to know whether the officer one is speaking with in fact has the authority s/he appears to be claiming, it seems to me that clearly distinguishable uniforms should be mandated (i.e., wearing a uniform that is not sufficiently distinguishable should be grounds for at least a civil penalty against the employer/supervisor who authorized such uniforms).

Finally, the dearth of publicly available information regarding all of these various types of officers, and the degree to which they have, or have not, been granted the right to exercise some or all of the City's police powers should be remedied as soon as possible. I wasn't able to find anything online, including from the official NYPD website, until I came across a website for police afficionados (the same sort of folk who listen to police radio scanners as nightly entertainment in place of watching TV) that made reference to NYC Public Safety Officers.

Anonymous said...

I've lived here 25+ years, and Security's uniform has always been identical to the NYPD's.

When the (real) police went from light blue shirts to dark blue, Stuy Town did too. The only white shirts are the commanders, same as NYPD.

Look at the Stuy Town shoulder patches - dead ringer for NYPD's.

It's always been like that and it's certainly intentional.

Wiz said...

In regard to Peter Cooper/Stuy Town's security officers. Some of these officers have been appointed Special Patrolman by the NYPD. According to the NYS Penal Law section 2.10 these officers have peace officer status. Which means, while the officer is actively employed and within their geographical area of employment that officer can take police action, make lawful arrests, and issue court summonses. If they ordered you to stop taking photos on private property and you fail to obey, then most definately a Special Patrolman can arrest you. Then when you get released from Central Booking you can plead your case to the Judge.

Anonymous said...

They should be referred to as harassment officers. I cant tell you how many times i have been harassed because i walk through the Oval with my dogs. They threaten arrest for trespassing, but that seems ridiculous!!- Where are the no trespassing signs? Isnt there an open an obvious right-of-way? When the Feds owned it, there was no private property enforcement. Are they blowing smoke??