The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

astonished to

with 8 comments

Tell me what to do, everyone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my usual habit, while the 7 line Subway was entering the Vernon Jackson Station, the camera was busily clicking away a couple three weeks ago. You’ve seen lots and lots of these shots here at your Newtown Pentacle, as every time I leave the neighborhood on whatever mission the day presents, I document my journeys photographically and that includes getting on the train. Like the Kiwi, I’m a funny and fuzzy little fruit with a lot of personality. On this particular afternoon, the gendarme who had so successfully pissed off his bosses that he was assigned to sit in the cop box at the end of a subway platform in Queens decided to punctuate his obvious boredom by confronting me about taking pictures in “the system.” How retro.

Given that I’m overly familiar with not just MTA’s policies towards photographic pursuits on their property (no commercial shoots, camera supports, lights, or flashes without a permit) but NYPD’s (standing orders from former Police Chief Kelly about not harassing photographers) as well, a brief conversation with the officer ensued. He accused me of using a flash, which he claimed “bothered” the conductors. I asked if he saw a camera flash, to which he replied he couldn’t see flashes inside his little cop box. Believe me, if I was using the flash I carry, you’d see it from up on the street. As is my habit, I offered to go with him to the nearby 108th precinct to have a conversation with his Desk Sergeant and Captain Forgione about NYPD’s rules on this subject. The officer declined the opportunity and asked me for ID and to see the pictures I had taken, to which I asked if I had committed a crime. Further, I offered that if he wanted to examine my camera card, he would need a subpoena.

He soon realized that he had stepped into a bear trap and returned to his cop box.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s been a while since I was last hassled by cops for brandishing the deadly weaponry known as a camera. I mean, it’s called a Canon, right? There are no laws in NYC, or in fact the United States, which preclude photographic pursuits in public spaces. There are a few exceptions, to be fair, but they mainly center around military installations. Everytime you see a sign like the one above, simply read it as an abrogation of your constitutional rights. The same legal pretense that allows NYPD and other security oriented organizations to hang surveillance and robotic red light cameras on lamp posts, private businesses and homeowners to brocade their walls with CCTV security cameras, also allows one such as myself to capture images of anything encountered whenever and wherever I want to.

A few years back, after reluctantly showing up for Jury Duty, the bailiffs of the Queens County court system went apoplectic when they saw my camera bag. They had no reaction whatsoever to the web connected video camera everybody else was carrying… you know, iPhones… but the DSLR represented some sort of existential threat to them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are rules governing photography regarding private property, as a note. If I wander into a shopping mall, or cemetery, and start clicking away and am then confronted by representatives of the property owner who tell me to cease and desist I am obliged to do so. Again, it’s public space versus private space. If you can see it from the sidewalk, it’s kosher. 

Photography. Not a crime. Forcing a cop to work inside a box at the Vernon Jackson station might be a human rights violation, however. This fellow should be out there on the streets doing something useful.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

8 Responses

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  1. Very useful information Mitch

    Strive urbanick

    July 23, 2018 at 11:26 am

  2. Happened to me many times. Those “no cameras. no videos” signs are completely assinine. Look, if a terrorist wants to blow a subway tunnel or a bridge up, tell me they’re going to photograph it with an in-your-face DSLR? I’ve had my camera also “logged in” by the Queens Court officers while everyone and their iPhones also were let through. I mentioned this to the officer and he said they knew this was happening but it was the directions of the administrative court judge. I was on a photographic video assignment once – completely undercover – you know where the camera lens was? In a Levi jeans jacket I had on and the lens was peeping out of one of the jacket’s front buttons. I videotaped the complete undercover encounter without the subject knowing he was being taped. The encounter was broadcast to my colleagues who had receiver equipment in the van sitting outside the guy’s establishment.

    The problem with these signs and over-bearing law enforcement is it makes for an unnecessary hassle to continue maintaining your rights. What I’d like to know is WHY was a cop stationed at that subway station? Threats against it?

    georgetheatheist . . . say cheese

    July 23, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    • I have been noticing a lot of the po-po stationed on 7 train platforms this summer. In fact, last week when I went to the Unisphere, there were four on each side at Roosevelt Avenue. I also know that for the uniforms, there’s good duty and bad duty. Assignment to sitting in the cop box isn’t a reward.

      Mitch Waxman

      July 23, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      • Actually assignments like the cop in the box or guarding prisoners at the hospital is good for cops studying for the sergeants exam so it’s not really a bad thing. Cops ask the bosses for it. That’s where I did my studying.


        July 23, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    • There are no particular threats but a sort-of kept secret that crime in the subways has been increasing of late. The city wants to look as if they are doing something about crime in the subway and possible terrorism by having visible uniformed presence as a deterrence but order them to pursue trivial offenses and quotas… oh, I’m sorry, “performance goals” in summonses. It’s anarcho tyranny in practice. Something you might be interested in looking up.

      I know libertarians absolutely hate cops, but remember, the cops you see are only foot soldiers who do not have any say in NYPD policies and procedures. That comes from our Glorious Leader Mayor and City Council who are ever devising new ways to separate us proles from our money and simply use the police as the money collectors so they can look innocent of their avarice to the public.
      Big government costs big money, you know, and ever growing government has ever growing costs.

      So if you have a problem with it, I suggest you take it up with your elected officials.

      Don Cavaioli


      July 23, 2018 at 2:44 pm

  3. Constitutional rights?
    What constitution?

    We live in a managerial state where the actual operation of government is done by the bureaucracy including bureaucrat created laws and bureaucrat, not judge, issued admistrative subponas. Unelected, tenured and although in theory under legislative oversight, but in truth unaccountable to the citizenry.

    As an example, recall how in a recent conversation I asked you about the need for EPA regulations and what is the science with all data and methods shown and repeatable experiment as proof behind them.
    Is there really a need for new laws, an ever increasing mountain of laws, rules and regulations or does the EPA create them just because they can and they don’t gotta prove nuthin’ to nobody?

    The government grows and takes more power because it can.
    Power is the objective and power is not a means to an end but an end in and of itself. The constitution is just a piece of paper our ruling class masters follow only if they want to and if you don’t like it, then what the fuck are you gonna do about it?

    We the people have neither the awareness nor have got the will to put a stop to this. We instead celebrate occasional minor victories over minor apparatchiks in minor squabbles and stubbornly ignore the bigger picture that the constitution has been defacto overthrown

    Yes you won a skirmish here, and rightfully so, but with a lowly cop in a city that so hates the police (and this especially includes the NYPD brass) that they have been reduced to mere actors playing the part of law enforcement officers. But the war itself is long lost and the only reason you won here is that the powers that be haven’t yet gotten around to dealing with freelance photographers who have the temerity to think they can take pictures of whatever they want without being granted the permission of their betters.
    But they will.

    Don Cavaioli

    That was a Transit Bureau cop and you’d have to accompany him to his Transit District (their version of a precinct) to talk with the Desk Officer and/or C.O. or X.O. about this issue not a Patrol Services Bureau precinct. Chain of command and all that.


    July 23, 2018 at 1:32 pm

  4. Section 1050.9 Restricted areas and activities.

    (a) No person, except as specifically authorized by the Authority, shall enter or attempt to enter into any area not open to the public, including but not limited to train operator’s cabs, conductor’s cabs, bus operator’s seat location, station booths, closed-off areas, mechanical or equipment rooms, concession stands, storage areas, interior rooms, catwalks, emergency stairways (except in cases of an emergency), tracks, roadbeds, tunnels, plants, shops, barns, train yards, garages, depots or any area marked with a sign restricting access or indicating a dangerous environment.

    (b) No vehicle, except as specifically authorized, may be parked on Authority property.

    (c) Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

    Judith Berdy, President The Roosevelt Island Historical Society 212-688-4836 917-744-3721 cell


    July 23, 2018 at 7:28 pm

  5. You should come over to the Ravenswood power plant where there are ‘NO PHOTOGRAPHY” signs. I will send you a view from my apartment!!!!

    Judith Berdy, President The Roosevelt Island Historical Society 212-688-4836 917-744-3721 cell


    July 23, 2018 at 7:32 pm

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