The head of the MTA blamed a bad “internet connection” for the delayed retrieval of surveillance footage from the three Brooklyn subway stations where attempted mass shooter Frank James caused chaos — and suggested the media was wrong to focus on the faulty camera systems.
“The cameras themselves were working. It was the internet connection that apparently had failed,” Authority Chairman Janno Lieber said during an unrelated press conference at Citi Field in Queens. “We’ve all learned about internet connections in the Zoom and WebEx and Microsoft Teams era, and that’s exactly what apparently failed.”
“You talked about the cameras that were not working, but there were a lot of cameras that were working,” Lieber told reporters.
The top transit boss said the media was wrong to focus on the non-working cameras, which sources close to the case have said cost precious time in their search for James, who was on the lam for more than 24 hours afterwards.
“The media ought to focus on how do we prevent these attacks, how do we prevent them from ever happening?” Lieber said.
The appointee of Gov. Kathy Hochul defended the “hundreds of millions of dollars” he said the agency has planned and plans to spend on expanding camera surveillance in the subway system.
“We had 600 cameras just on the inline in Brooklyn alone, and those cameras were examined and they did yield the images of this fellow James coming into the system,” he said. “Fifty times a day we actually capture video for the NYPD using our camera system.”
Transit officials last year bragged that they’d installed cameras at 100 percent of stations, up from 30 percent coverage in 2018. But many stations do not have cameras facing platforms — including 36th Street where the shooting occurred.
Despite the expense, Lieber said it was “obviously not guaranteed that every single camera is going to be working at every time.”
The MTA had someone “working on” the internet issue the day before the attack, he said.
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy