PATH Cop Targets Mom, Grandma and Newborn

Kim Hudson

On Friday afternoon I was in the Christopher Street PATH station in New York City with my mom, my sister and her baby. My mom and I were taking pictures of the baby, her with an iPhone and me with my camera, when the Port Authority officer came over and told us sternly “No pictures, no pictures.” Though I knew this was absolutely ridiculous – and groundless – I wasn’t going to make a scene there with my family. All we could do was laugh. If three women cooing over a baby are now a security threat, well … I don’t know. It’s just unfathomable.

Considering the hot water New York’s MTA subway system and Amtrak have been in lately, you’d think the PATH would be more aware of the law. What’s more, Boing Boing posted an NYPD document yesterday outlining their stance on photographers – and, in a nut shell, it says it’s perfectly legal and they should refrain from harrassing people shooting in public places. (The NYPD does not patrol PATH stations, but the agencies work very closely with each other.)

I contacted PATH authorities to find out their policy on photography. They told me their private bylaws allow them to outlaw photography in their stations – despite it being a public place and a government entity. To voice your concerns about this incident, contact the Port Authority Police at (201) 216-2677.

20 Responses to “PATH Cop Targets Mom, Grandma and Newborn”


  1. 1 A. L. DeWitt May 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    A governmental agency cannot exempt itself from the constitution by private bylaws. If it could, then it could force strip searchs and not admit people of color, or any other silly bias.

    One of these days I’m going to go to NYC and take photos in these places just for the pure pleasure of being told not to, and then explain that I’m a lawyer and that I plan on suing them into the poorhouse if they dare to mess with me. Of course, I’m taking a P&S camera not my Nikon because while I might risk arrest, I wouldn’t put my Nikon at risk. *s*

  2. 2 Steve May 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    A.L DeWitt, let me know when you are going. I want to join you!

  3. 3 John May 18, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Here’s where their rules are posted – http://www.panynj.gov/CommutingTravel/path/html/pop_regulations.html

    See section IX

  4. 4 Brian May 19, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Commenter John posted the link to PATH’s rules and regulations. The rules are not “private” – they are publicly posted in stations and on the website.

    All transit agencies have such rules and regulations, and normally they are authorized by law to make such rules and regulations. But PATH is the *O*N*L*Y* public transit authority in this country that I know of that places restrictions on amateur photography as official policy. Whether or not PATH’s restrictions on amateur photography are legal would have to be decided in a court of law. But until that happens, since PATH has these restrictions in their legally adopted rules and regulations, these restrictions are valid and you would be in violation if you violated them.

    I for one am all for a court case to challenge these laws. Or at least would like someone well versed in the law to tell me whether they think PATH has a right to place restrictions on amateur photography.

    Back in 2006 the New York Press Photographers Association claimed they were going to do something about this, but AFAIK, nothing has happened. Very disappointing. Here’s a link to the article (which I also happen to be quoted in).

    http://www.railfanwindow.com/path-photo-ban.html

  5. 5 Andy May 19, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I fully agree with the original premise that the prohibition of public photography seems to take someone’s societal paranoia to an extreme.

    Simply, rules, regulations and laws tend to be enacted to achieve some outcome. Ironically most ‘rulemakers’ fail to understand the concept. What can happen is that the underlying rationale to achieve that outcome shifts, but the laws are not updated to reflect that shift, so they become somewhere between annoying and irrelevant; the footsoldiers are left with no choice but to enforce but never to question; so in this case the police officer tells the photographers to stop.

    Tis a pity, but at some point the nation’s thinkers and ‘rulemakers’ need to get beyond the mythical desire they are trying to protect, and start to think if their original outcome justifies the approach. If not, scrap the rule or regulation.

  6. 6 Ricky July 19, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Well, what’s the point of this photography ban? Terrorism? It is well known that the vast majority of picture-takers are NOT terrorists, and, besides, a terrorist with a good memory could always go in and out and make sketches of the PATH system and memorize places. Photography bans are no real insurance against terrorist attacks. Besides, there are plenty of pictures of PATH out there. Therefore, the national security argument fails. “Private property”? The Port Authority is a PUBLIC agency, run by two state governments, and thus should be subject to the fact that photography is legal on public territory in the USA, so long as national security is not at risk. So of course the best that Port Authority folks can do is go around saying “No pictures” and nagging, as far as I know.

  7. 7 Ricky July 19, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Ahem. PATH could ban people from its property, and an Amtrak cop did arrest somebody for “trespassing” when taking pictures, but that incident was apparently swept under the rug and agencies don’t like negative publicity stemming from photography bans. This might account for people keeping quiet and not taking cases into court (ever heard of out-of-court settlements?)

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  1. 1 No Photography Aimed at PATH Stations « Trackback on August 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

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