MTA To Remind Cops: Photography Is Not Prohibited

Mar 17, 2006

 The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority has told the New York Civil Liberties Union that it will remind its staff and law enforcement officers that there is no photography ban on MTA property and that photography is legal in MTA stations and on subways.

The need for a reminder comes after some photographers and videographers in the New York region continued to be harassed by MTA personnel, specifically on the Long Island Railroad, despite the defeat of an MTA attempted ban on photography that never succeeded in being passed. The proposal was withdrawn after press organizations protested the new rule.

NPPA Region 2 associate director Todd Maisel, who is also vice president of the New York Press Photographers Association and a staff photographer at the New York Daily News, said that the “New York Civil Liberties Union has come through with respect to the MTA and pictures on public properties. A letter from the MTA’s general councel is supposed to be communicated to police. We’ve been assured by the New York Police Department that they have already told their officers to leave us alone. We do not yet feel reassured that this has been communicated by the MTA (to their staff), but we will be on it.”

Maisel said the NYPPA will issue copies of the letter for distribution.

Samuel R. Munger of the New York Civil Liberties Union told Maisel that he thinks the MTA letter is “quite favorable, and reflects the MTA not wanting to get into a fight over this.” The NYCLU will continue to monitor and pursue the matter, Munger said, and has asked MTA to issue an “official directive” on the subject.

In a March 10 letter to LIRR’s general counsel Mary Mahon, NYCLU’s associate legal director Chris Dunn wrote, “In the last several weeks the NYCLU has received a number of reports about people being told by LIRR police officers that they are not permitted to take photographs of trains or train stations. Officers have gone so far as to threaten photographers with arrest.”

The letter continues: “As far as we can determine, the LIRR has no rules or regulations prohibiting photography nor any rules or regulations establishing a permit scheme or any insurance requirements. Given that photography of public areas is protected by the First Amendment, we believe the LIRR’s actions are plainly unconstitutional.” Dunns letter concludes, “If the LIRR is not willing to take immediate steps to address this situation, we are prepared to file suit.”

NPPA Region 2 associate director Maisel asks that any photojournalist who encounters a problem with MTA officers while taking photographs on a legitimate assignment please report the incident to him as soon as possible.

Read an earlier story on the MTA proposed photo ban.