04/24/2013 11:57 am ET Updated Apr 24, 2013

New York City Drone Usage Endorsed By GOP Mayoral Candidates Lhota, McDonald, And Catsimatidis


New York City's three Republican mayoral candidates endorsed the use of surveillance drones in New York City Tuesday night, The New York Post reports.

“I’m absolutely for it,” Joe Lhota, the former MTA chief, said at a Young Professionals Republicans forum. “Drones to be used from a surveillance point of view — so long as it understands people’s privacy rights — we could use them for collecting intelligence.”

Supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis agreed with Lhota. “We have to use 21st century technology . . . to help keep New Yorkers safe,” he said.

Doe Fund founder George McDonald also said he agreed with the use of the small, unmanned aircraft in New York City.

Earlier this month, New York Assemblymen Luis Sepúlveda and Nick Perry introduced legislation in Albany that would restrict law enforcement's use of drones in New York.

Gothamist reported Sepúlveda's bill would ban authorities from using drones to gather evidence "except when authorized under a warrant issued by a court of record or justified by lawful exception to the warrant requirement."

Similarly, Perry's bill would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using a drone in criminal investigations. His bill would also allow use of drones during "exigent circumstances."

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly revealed in January that he's interested in deploying drones over New York City to watch over large demonstrations.

But aside from worrying civil rights activists, drones could also face logistical challenges in New York.

"There’s a lot of air traffic," Kelly said. "The only thing we would do is maybe use the cheap $250 ones to take a look and see the size of the demonstration or something along those lines."

Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged privacy concerns over drones, but said their use was inevitable.

"It's scary, but what's the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building?" Bloomberg said. "I mean intellectually I'd have trouble making a distinction. You can't keep the tides from coming in. We're gonna have more visibility and less privacy. I don't see how you stop that."

As Business Insider noted at the time, as of 1998, there were already 2,800 strategically place security cameras around New York City.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director at the NYCLU, was concerned over Bloomberg's remarks. “It’s disappointing that the mayor shows such disdain for the legitimate concern of New Yorkers about their privacy," she said. "None of us expects that we’ll go unseen when we’re out on the street, but we also have the right to expect that the government isn’t making a permanent record.”

Last year, President Obama signed a law requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to "allow police and first responders" across the country "to fly drones under 4.4 pounds."



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