Cameras were on but internet was down

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair and CEO Janno Lieber offered “no excuses” for the lack of working security cameras in the Brooklyn subway station where a gunman opened fire in a packed subway car earlier this week. But he seemed to bristle at repeated questions about the failed cameras.

“We have to have these security features working,” Lieber said. “But we ought to focus — and the media ought to focus — on how do we prevent these attacks?”

But the questions are now coming from the City Council, as well. 

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, Council Member Justin Brannan, and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams on Thursday sent a letter to Lieber requesting a full report from the MTA.

“New Yorkers need to know what the MTA is doing to close these coverage gaps and maintain safe conditions in the subway,” they wrote. “We are hereby requesting the MTA submit a full report to the Council on the agency’s surveillance network: the number of cameras installed in the system, their placement within stations, whether each camera stores footage locally or transmits video electronically, and the schedule for camera inspection and maintenance.”

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An MTA spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the request.

At a press conference outside Citi Field, Lieber confirmed that cameras in two stations in Brooklyn malfunctioned at the time of the shooting: 36th Street, where many passengers and the gunman exited one train and ran across the platform to another, and 25th Street, where the gunman is said to have exited.

“Those cameras have been restored,” Lieber said. “The cameras themselves were working, it was the internet connection that apparently had failed.”

He again reiterated that New York’s subway system has more than 10,000 cameras in total.

“It’s a huge piece of our system but obviously it’s not guaranteed that every single camera is going to be working at every time, which is why you have so many,” Lieber said. 

Lieber is hoping baseball fans using public transit for Friday’s Mets home opener will add on to the slight rebound in ridership numbers in the subway. Tuesday, the day of the attack, 200,000 fewer people went underground compared to Monday. But 150,000 of those riders came back Wednesday.

“We believe that New Yorkers are resilient,” Lieber said. He also said he believes in the mayor’s pledge to consider new ways to protect riders.

“If there are technologies that can make everyone feel safe, make it even more desirable to share in what is our birthright as New Yorkers — the subway and transit — I’m all for it,” Lieber said. 

But, echoing the mayor, he said traditional metal detectors that would slow down commuters are not an option.

“I’m for every idea being studied that could work,” Lieber said. “What I’m not for is an airport-type metal detector system.”

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