Cops push for outdoor surveillance network in midtown

By Jason Fink

The NYPD wants to install cameras and license plate readers on the streets of midtown, replicating the “ring of steel” around lower Manhattan.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday the department would seek up to $58 million in federal grants for the Midtown Manhattan Security Initiative, which would also include radiation and bioterrorism detectors. The department would install new equipment and integrate privately-owned cameras into the network.

“It will give us a comprehensive and real-time view of midtown,” Kelly told a city council committee.The security ring would stretch from 34th to 59th streets and from river to river.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which sued the city last year over the $92 million Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, blasted the plan. It’s suit is still pending.

“It’s of grave concern that the government would be compiling a massive database on the comings and goings of innocent people,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

No timetable was announced for the midtown plan. Kelly said the NYPD already has requested $21 million in federal funds for the first phase.

It is “another component of our broad counter terrorism strategy,” said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

New Yorkers in midtown Tuesday had mixed reactions.

“It’s good,” said Sean Long, 25, of Brooklyn. “When it's dark here it’s not nice to walk around.”

Meanwhile, Jason Weinstein, 27, of Manhattan, called it Orwellian. “I feel pretty safe already,” he said.

Data from midtown would be fed into the monitoring center connected to the downtown system, which now includes about 300 cameras. The NYPD eventually wants 3,000 cameras in lower Manhattan.

Melinda Hsia contributed to this story.

Tags: nypd , midtown , cameras , terrorism , crime

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