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Old 08-30-2004, 03:42 AM   #4
dns860
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Mount Vernon, New York
Posts: 68
Default Safer Place Update

Hi Nate!

I did get a permit. It's valid for one week only, from 8/28/2004 to 9/6/2004, and only at Metro-North's Tarrytown, Riverdale, Crestwood, Fleetwood, and New Rochelle stations. And I was reminded when I received it that the police's authority supercedes the permit.

Things are tense for the general public here in New York. Everyone is closely watched. I rode Metro-North today to get to a work assignment in Harrison. There was a police car at the station where I boarded a train, a uniformed state policeman on the train, and I saw at least five uniformed officers at New Rochelle, a station Amtrak shares with Metro-North. It also appears that helicopters are patrolling the rail lines. So much for any attempt to pretend that the day would be an idyllic, late-summer 'Penny Lane' or 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' free from fear, despite the clear blue sky, the balmy temperataure, and the bright, abundant sunshine. I had a subtle but persistent feeling of being in danger until I got home.

Most people I talk to believe if some fanatic wants to harm us, eventually he or she will find a way, and all the security in the world won't stop them. But we can't just look the other way and hope the threat will go away, either. These people really do present a clear and present danger. More and more I think about moving to the country, if this is how things are going to be.

I've spent my life just working and trying to get by. It's hard to believe anybody would want to hurt me for that. Can things be so different elsewhere for the common man? I really don't have time for hating others. I'm just trying to get by, make it through the day, the week, the month, the year. I'm nobody, and I have to adapt continuously no matter what mandates a change, be it my family, the economy, my government, or threats made real by fanatical foreigners. I guess what I'm saying is that life was challenging enough without all this fear and security stuff.

From what I hear, security in Midtown Manhattan is even more intense. Every kind of police vehicle imaginable is patrolling the avenues. Major thoroughfares are completely closed. Anybody seen as loitering is scooped up and brought elsewhere, if they can't move along all by themselves. Sentries wearing helmets stand at every corner in flak jackets. They have automatic assault rifles slung over their shoulders or cradled in their hands. Most of the soldiers don't return eye contact. Most are half my age. Do they know enough about life to judge me fairly?

The security is for the best, I suppose, but I must say it's more depressing than reassuring to me. Two guys were hauled in just this week, and the papers said they had all kinds of bad plans. They alledgedly wanted to blow up a subway station, among other locations. Just two guys. It's believed that they are not even connected with Al-Qaeda. Just two angry foreign guys. A policeman told me he doesn't think things are ever going to be the way they used to be.

The reason for the ultra high state of readiness is of course the RNC this week in Manhattan. Amtrak passengers were especially scrutinized. Those trains as I'm sure you all know go directly beneath MSG.

Sure, I think the added security is great. It's just too bad that a railfan like me who could be sort of like a free extra security guard is seen as a bothersome flake - or worse, a suspect.

The Republicans chartered a private varnish special to get to NYC. It came down the Hudson Line this evening. I'm sure hanging around the station would have gotten me unwanted attention, so I didn't even try to get a picture of the train, even with my permit, which was in fact valid today at Riverdale Station.

I wonder if the tension surrounding the RNC will make my permit a meaningless piece of paper. Nevertheless, I do feel lucky to have it!

MTA/NYC Transit as yet offers no formal photo pass for the general public, as far as I know. I just called the head office, and much to my surprise, was able to directly ask a high profile person for a pass, and after a few hours such a permit was faxed to me. I do wonder if my name preceded my call! Now I can enter the TRAINS photo contest. I'm not expecting to win anything, but at the very least I want to be able to say I tried.

I understand the MBTA has begun issuing 'official' photo passes. There is no fee for the pass, but applicants must go to the MBTA HQ in person to apply, and if a pass is granted it is only valid for 30 days. Who's going to want to go down there every 30 days and re-apply?

The fact is, in NYC photographing just about anything causes some people alarm. My friend was detained and questioned for an hour outside the Javitz Convention Center after he was observed taking a picture of the midtown skyline. And my friend is a very presentable, married, and stable caucasian American-born man who wears khaki slacks and Ralph Lauren polo shirts. He just likes photography. It was sunset, he told me, and the sky and and the sun were reflecting off the skyscrapers in a photogenic manner.

At least two of my friends will not accompany me anywhere if I have my camera. They are worried we will be stopped by police. They tell me to accept the realities of the present, like food rationing, gas rationing, and dimming the lights on Broadway were accepted in another war 60 years ago.

If I sold cameras for a living, I'd be very concerned about this widespread public mis-perception that any type form of public photography is illegal in New York.

Dave
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