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Re: NYCTA moves forward with photo ban

Posted by Kevin from Midwood on Fri Nov 26 15:00:34 2004, in response to Re: NYCTA moves forward with photo ban, posted by David of Broadway on Thu Nov 25 22:52:29 2004.

IN THE SUBWAYS Fotog Focuses On TA Failures; [CITY Edition]
Ellis Henican. Newsday. (Combined editions). Long Island, N.Y.: Jul 21, 1992. pg. 06

Flash! This news comes about 40 years too late. But after pointless decades of trying to keep cameras out of the subway, the Transit Authority has finally begun the process of giving up the fight.

For this, underground fotogs have Angela D'Urso to thank. D'Urso is a legal secretary and a good citizen from the Bronx. She made a public stink back in April when she was fined for taking pictures at her local subway station.

The station, 183rd Street on the No. 4 line, was a pit - and a dangerous pit, at that.

For months, D'Urso had been complaining to the Transit Authority about the abysmal conditions there. The paint was peeling. The wiring was exposed. The glass had been knocked out of many of the windows. As a good citizen should, D'Urso phoned the Transit Authority several times to complain about this and, after getting nowhere at all, laid out the details in a letter on March 12.

But the letter she got in return, from TA Stations Chief Carol Meltzer, said D'Urso didn't know what she was talking about.

"No evidence of exposed wiring . . . " the letter said.

"Or any evidence of peeling paint . . . " the letter said.

So that evening after work, this public-spirited legal secretary started constructing an ironclad case. She got out her camera. She walked over to the subway. And she started firing away.

At the wiring.

At the peeling paint.

At the holes where the windows used to be.

That's about when two transit cops turned up.

This picture-taking would have to stop immediately, one of the officers announced. Taking pictures in the subway, the cop said, was a clear violation of the official Transit Authority rules.

D'Urso, of course, had never heard of any such regulation. And she had a hard time understanding why anyone should be stopped from documenting this particular truth.

The cop didn't want to hear it. She just opened up a copy of her rule book and turned to section 1050.9(c). Damned if the rule wasn't there:

"No photograph, film or video recording shall be made or taken on or in any conveyance or facility by any person, except members of the press holding valid press identification cards issued by the New York City Police Department or by others duly authorized in writing to engage in such activity by the authority."

As D'Urso did not have a press pass or a written permit from the agency she was seeking to expose, this left her pretty much out in the cold - for the moment, at least.

Exactly what else happened in that station remains a topic of some dispute. Words were exchanged. By the time the cop had finished writing, Angela D'Urso had three formal charges pending against her: Unauthorized Use of Photography, Noncompliance with a Lawful Order and Disorderly Conduct. What they added up to in practical terms was a $125 fine.

D'Urso could have mailed in the money and quietly walked away. She decided to fight instead.

The wheels of the justice system started turning - slowly, like they usually do. A hearing was scheduled at the Transit Adjudication Bureau. Written testimony was invited - and witnesses were called down. A woman named Della Cohen presided over the case.

When all was said and done, Cohen didn't rip into the Transit Authority. She didn't rip into the cops. She considered all the evidence - or so she said, at least - and ripped into D'Urso but good.

D'Urso's recollection, the hearing officer said, was "vague and lacked detail." The letters of support she got from various politicians "are all totally irrelevant and add nothing to the matter at hand."

"I cannot credit her statements," the hearing officer declared.

Cohen was all too happy to credit the version of the cops: that D'Urso had been loud and unruly, that she had caused a scene in the station, that she had obviously been taking photographs.

The hearing officer's ruling: guilty as charged to disorderly conduct, $50 fine.

But something happened before the hearing ever got started, something more important than whatever it was that occurred at 183rd Street. D'Urso started complaining. Loudly. Publicly. And in print.

Top officials at the Transit Authority thought for a minute about this whole silly antiphoto rule - and recognized what an embarrassment it was.

No one could even remember why it was there in the first place.

Safety? Not really. Crowd control? Who knows?

All anyone knew for sure was that it went back at least to the 1940s, and it got enforced every now and then.

"Anyway," Caren Gardner, a spokeswoman for the Transit Authority was saying yesterday, "we have decided to declare a moratorium on enforcement of the rule."

The process of actually eliminating it is a long and complicated one, involving several layers of the bureaucracy.

Opinions have to be sought from the various Transit Authority departments. The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has to vote. Comments from the public will be sought. And a special administrative-procedure form must be filed with the state.

But the first step has now been taken.

"Until further notice," Gardner said, "no one will be summonsed for taking pictures in the subway."

And those two other charges against D'Urso were dropped.


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