The MTA has refused to provide an accounting of NYC’s subway surveillance system Thursday, days after malfunctioning cameras in two subway stops affected by the Brooklyn mass shooting hindered the early stages of the citywide manhunt.
The frustrations mounted Thursday, with city council members demanding a full audit of the network of hundreds of cameras on the underground system.
“New Yorkers need to know what the MTA is doing to close these coverage gaps and maintain safe conditions in the subway,” a letter signed by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Majority Whip Selvena Brooks-Powers and Councilman Justin Brannan, who chairs the finance committee, demanding an audit of the system.
The media has been pressing the MTA leaders on the issue since it was revealed that the cameras inside the 36th Street and 25th Street stations in Sunset Park hadn’t been working properly since last Friday.
The lack of surveillance video from the station where the shooting unfolded and where Frank James allegedly escaped helped create chaos in the early stages of the investigation for NYPD detectives, who were scrambling to figure out what had actually unfolded inside the subway system and where the madman had gone.
The MTA owns and maintains the cameras inside the subways, and transmits 5,000 live feeds to the NYPD for investigations.
But the feeds in the two affected stations weren’t working during the terror attack Tuesday morning — creating a “s–t show” in the NYPD and delayed getting a positive identification on the suspect, who was on the lam for more than a day, The Post previously reported.
In comparison, in August of 2019 when a man set off alarms after leaving a pair of rice cookers in the subway — events that echoed the 2016 Chelsea bombing — the NYPD facial recognition unit was able to get a solid lead on who cops needed to track down in an hour. He was arrested later that night.
The MTA has refused to answer questions about how many cameras are currently working, what’s the protocol to catch and fix issues and why it took more than four days to get the feeds in those two stations up and running again.
MTA Communications Director Tim Minton said the agency was “reviewing its protocols regarding safety measures to ensure best practices are deployed” as is standard high-profile incidents.
Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said the NYPD is in contact with the MTA about downed feeds and was made aware of the issues with the cameras at hand previously.
“To say that the investigation was effectively set back by hours is an overstatement,” said Miller, who played down the importance of the cameras in the incident since James was masked.
“We were moving forward the whole time and working around the clock with the MTA who were able to supply multiple additional images.”
Maria Haberfeld, a police science professor at John Jay College in Manhattan, said cameras are “really critical when it comes to investigations.”
“Cameras provide an omi-real deterrent,” said Haberfeld, adding that it is particularly needed on the subways “given the fact that everything is happening underground and the police presence is minimal.”
“There are a lot of soft targets,” she said.
Haberfeld conceded, though, that these cameras systems need constant, pricey upkeep and speculated less attention has been given to the surveillance side of things after the pandemic took a toll on the agency’s finances.
“If there is no ongoing upkeep of the cameras, it certainly creates an environment of ‘I can do whatever I want to do,’ ” she added.