Although it’s completely legal to photograph just about anything and anyone from a public sidewalk in New York City, photographers, videographers and filmmakers continually get harassed by rent-a-cops, security guards, NYPD and others. Examples here, here and here.
I was out shooting time-lapse photos of the Atlantic Yards site yesterday (May 27, 2010), specifically, the site of the Barclays Center Arena at the intersection of Flatbush & Atlantic Avenues in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I set up my camera & tripod on the sidewalk of Flatbush Avenue near its now-closed intersection with Pacific Street so that I could shoot thru the chain-link fence and a gap in the netting that surrounds the construction site. After about 10 minutes of shooting, three construction workers walk up to me on the outside of the fence. We had the following exchange:
Construction worker #1: “Can we help you?”
Me: “No, thanks.”
CW #1: “What are you taking pictures of?”
Me: “The construction of the arena”
CW #1: “You can’t take pictures here. I’m gonna have to ask you to move along…”
Me: “Yes, I can take pictures here. I’m on a public sidewalk.”
CW #2 (to the other workers): “We can just close it up from the other side.”
They walk back inside the construction area and close the gap in the netting covering the fence. Watch it here:
Fair enough. I had already shot most of what I wanted.
So then I decide that I’ll shoot from a vantage point I’d been thinking about for some time: from the intersection of Hanson Place and Fort Greene Place on the edge of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal and Center Malls, looking south to Atlantic Avenue and the Barclays Center site. I thought this angle would give a sense of what’s to come on Dean Street & 6th Avenue if/when the Barclays Center Arena is built. I suspect that the backside of the arena on 6th Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street would resemble the loading docks of the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Fort Greene Place, and the traffic congestion would probably be worse, at least when there’s an event at the arena.
I’m setting up my tripod on the southeast corner of Hanson Place and Fort Greene Place, next to the northwest corner of the Atlantic Center Mall. I haven’t taken one photo before a guy in a suit comes up and we talk:
Guy In Suit: “What are you taking photos of?”
Me: “I’m taking a time-lapse movie of the traffic.”
GIS: “You can’t take photos here.”
Me: “Why not?”
GIS: “It’s private property.”
Me: “It is?”
GIS: “Yes. The city demapped this block. It’s now owned by the owner of these buildings.”
GIS: “Yes. We clean the block. We maintain it. If you were to take photos on a city street, I couldn’t stop you.”
Me: “So, is across the street a city street.”
So, I head north, to the opposite/north side of Hanson Place, on public property, and shot this: