The city will expand the downtown surveillance network commonly referred to as the "Ring of Steel" to midtown, using $24 million in Homeland Security grants. Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly announced yesterday that the new "monitoring network" would cover the areas between 30th and 60th Streets, from the Hudson to the East River. Like the system downtown (formally called the "Lower Manhattan Security Initiative"), the expanded surveillance network would feed streams of data for analysis to a coordination center at 55 Broadway.
Bloomberg boasted yesterday that midtown would soon be as safe from terror as the area below Canal Street, which he described as "the best-protected financial center in the world." The midtown security initiative, expected to be in place by 2011, will tap into existing cameras operated by private companies, as well as additional security cameras. The area will also be equipped with license-plate readers and chemical-weapons detectors.
Unsurprisingly, civil liberties advocates are concerned. NYCLU director Donna Lieberman said, "There's no information with regard to who has access to the information, exactly what's being collected, how long it's being kept and whether it's been digitized into a massive database on the innocent and lawful comings and goings of millions of New Yorkers and visitors." New Yorkers on the street also expressed reservations; midtown pedicab driver Yavuz Alemdar told the Daily News, "I'm not going to be able to kiss my girlfriend now. I don't like the idea of being watched all of the time."