NYCLU threatens to sue city over new photo policy
By: James V. Franco
Jean Hetman, who has a 13-year-old daughter who practices figure skating at the arena, said she has been video taping and photographing her daughter's routines for about six years, but now she is being told she cannot, and even had the police called on her twice.|
"I am more than willing to show my ID and go through whatever mechanism they want to use to determine who is a pedophile and who is not," she said "When it gets right down to it, I can take a photo of whoever I feel like taking a picture of. When you are in a public place you have no right of privacy."
The city maintains the new policy is to protect children from pedophiles.
Melanie Trimble, NYCLU executive director, said the rink is a public place and Hetman is within her rights to photograph children skating. Furthermore, she said the policy, although unnecessary and probably illegal, is not being applied fairly because Recreation Director George Rogers twice denied Hetman permission while granting other parents permission to do the same thing.
"His reasons for denial were neither based upon imminent danger, danger of pedophiles, unwillingness to present identification nor any other legitimate reason for denial," she said. "His denials are both capricious and arbitrary.
"In the absence of a local ordinance to the contrary, a public facility such as the rink has no right to limit the ability of its patrons to take photographs or videotape."
In a letter to Corporation Counsel David Mitchell, Trimble asks the city to stop Rogers from denying the requests and prevent other staffers from harassing Hetman with the threat of arrest. Short of that, she said, the group would bring the matter to court.
"The same group that is fighting the use of surveillance cameras to protect residents in high crime areas is now arguing against a policy involving camera usage that aims to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society," said Mayor Harry Tutunjian. "That is very ironic."
Rogers said the city will not allow anyone to sit in the bleachers and take photos or videotape anyone else's kids without permission.
"As long as they are videotaping their kid I have absolutely no problem and I have given permission to parents and coaches," he said. "We are not going to let them be photographed or videotaped by anyone who comes along and wants to take their picture."
Police have been called twice, but no arrests have been made. Hetman said she will continue to tape and photograph her child to "stand up for her First Amendment rights" and dared the city to "... have me arrested."
"As you know individuals cannot be arrested for trespass if they are behaving lawfully on public property," Trimble said.
Hetman maintains she only focuses on her child, but sometimes other skaters do make their way onto her film if they skate too close to her daughter.
She said it all started with a personality dispute between her and the parents of another skater, and the parents called the police on March 8. She said the same parents complained about her photography in the Clifton Park Arena.
"I have not been doing anything different than the last five or six years and now this happens because there are people who dislike me," she said. "But you don't make laws because you don't like someone. If they put the signs up in the arena, are they putting them up anywhere else in the city?"
There are no signs limiting photography outside the rink, near the playground, for example, or the athletic fields that surround the rink.