surveillance cameras at New York University

over 500 and still counting!

New York University (NYU) is a very big, well-known university. Its buildings, personnel and clients ("the students") over-run and control the psychogeography of a large part of the area surrounding it. Located at Washington Square Park, NYU has expanded as far south as Houston Street and as far north as 14th Street. And so, our mapping campaign has decreased the size of Greenwich Village, and now refers to the entire area between Sixth Avenue and First Avenue, and between 14th Street and Houston, as "NYU."

In our first attempt, made in November 2002, we used one of NYU's own maps to generate ours, and only included the cameras that were installed on the exteriors of NYU's buildings, all 57 of them. We located a total of 77 cameras. In its March 2003 issue, a radical student paper called NYU, Inc. published a map of cameras in the NYU area that it generated using nothing but materials we'd donated (several completed maps and a map still in draft form). Unfortunately, NYU, Inc. changed the original camera-designations (private, city, state, federal, etc) to a simplistic scheme in which every camera was labeled NYU or not NYU.

Dissatisifed, we went back to our original materials, "smartened" the information back up, and created another map. According to it, they were in November 2002 a total of 227 cameras installed in public places in the area: 131 of them on privately owned buildings; 68 [sic] on NYU buildings; 15 on universities other than NYU; 10 on city-owned poles and posts; 2 in highly elevated positions; and 1 red-light enforcer. These numbers -- 3 cameras per square-block -- seem right, but there were obviously problems with the map. We couldn't account for several small discrepancies (for example: are there 77 or 68 cameras on NYU buildings?), and the "original" was too large to photocopy without reducing it and thus rendering some of its information illegible. And so we never used it as part of our walking tours or other public presentations.

In April-May 2004, we returned to the area and, from scratch, made another map. According to our research, which required 12 hours' of effort, there are now 510 cameras installed in public places: 500 of them on privately owned buildings (including those owned by NYU and other universities); and 10 on city-owned poles. In other words, the number of cameras in the area has more than doubled over the course of the last 1.5 years; this area has eight cameras per-square-block, which makes it the most heavily surveilled area in Manhattan that we've mapped. And yet, there is virtually no crime in the area, and no locations that might be tempting targets for terrorists.

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

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By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998