‘Tis The Season: N.Y.P.D. Style

December 19, 2007 by
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

94 Precinct

It must have been slow at the good ol’ 94th Precinct today. That’s the only reason I can conjure up as to why they saw fit to throw some holiday cheer my direction by detaining me and demanding identification.

Was I trespassing? No.

Was I loitering? No.

Was I dressed in a manner that would be construed as menacing?

Chococat Hat

If wearing hats bearing Sanrio characters is an indication of being criminally inclined, I guess the answer is “yes”.

After demanding to know why I merited their attention— AT LEAST THREE TIMES— I was told “someone reported a suspicious person was in the area taking pictures”. Is taking pictures against the law? Not as far as I know. But the line of questioning the (male) police officer posited to me would certainly suggest it is:

P.O.: If you live in north Greenpoint, what are you doing here?
Taking pictures, is that against the law?
P.O.: No.
Me: Hausman Street always goes all-out with their Christmas decorations, I just got done taking pictures of them. Pretty days like today are going to become few and far between soon and I wanted to enjoy them while I can.

Barney Fife looked at me like I had eight heads.

Virgin Mary

I wasn’t lying.

Snowman and American Flag

Hausman Street has some of the best decorations to be found in Greenpoint. Note the presence of an American flag. These line the block on both sides. The homeowners on Hausman are proud to be Americans. After the experience I had today I do not share their enthusiasm: I felt more like I was in the D.P.R.K. than the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Home Sweet Home

The peeps over on Apollo Street are no slouches in the patriotism/decoration department either.

Apollo Street A/C Unit

Even their air conditioners exude holiday cheer.

Kingsland Avenue Fedders Box

The same goes for Kingsland Avenue.

Nassau Avenue Santa

I thought this Santa on Nassau Avenue was cute, so I took a photograph of it.

Santa on Hausman

The same goes for this fat fella back on Hausman Street.

The Grinch on Hausman Street

He’s a mean one, that Mr. Grinch! I wonder if he was the one who called the cops on my “suspicious person”?

But what kind of (suspicious looking) person would I be to get bitter during this season of cheer and goodwill towards men? This post is dedicated to Officer Gonzales, her delightful partner (who gave me the third degree) and the 94th Precinct. They must be doing a smash-up job of fighting crime if they have the time to intimidate a 30-something year old woman about taking pictures.

Miss Heather


44 Comments on ‘Tis The Season: N.Y.P.D. Style

  1. Tony From Kent Street on Wed, 19th Dec 2007 3:06 pm
  2. Miss Heather, for the record, every day at the 94th is a slow day, just like that day this past summer where my girlfriend and I got a ticket each for riding our bikes on the sidewalk to cross McGuinness (requiring us to go to Criminal Court!)

  3. grnbrg on Wed, 19th Dec 2007 3:17 pm
  4. Welcome to the police state. When someone asks you if you want the terrorists to win, I think the answer is that they already have.

  5. missheather on Wed, 19th Dec 2007 3:24 pm
  6. I’d be careful if I were you grnbrg, I detect a hint of “thought crime” in your comment.


    The powers that be might haul you off to Room 101.


    Better known to some as the police station.

  7. Steve of Astoria on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 12:02 am
  8. Either you’re with us or against us. We should all stay home and not be a threat to society. Those who know better don’t do anything. If you see something, say something. (Repeat 100 times to complete your penance)

    One of us…

  9. Greenpointless on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 3:49 am
  10. Yikes! Glad you’re okay after your encounter.

    If I might add to your neighborhood tour of Greenpointers and their yards at this festive time of year, I live on Franklin St., between India and Huron and one of my neighbors has recently built a chicken coop in their backyard. (Perhaps as a Christmas gift for themself?) I should also say it’s not just chickens. There is most definitely at least one rooster who greets the dawn well before dawn.

    Only in Greenpoint.

  11. greenpointers on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 8:09 am
  12. Jesus, that’s ridiculous. My friend’s boyfriend was harassed by the 94th this past Summer for laying on a bench in McGoldrick Park while simply relaxing with his girlfriend and their baby.

  13. vintagejames on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 9:06 am
  14. Well, greenpointers, lying on a bench is one thing and laying on it is quite another.

  15. missheather on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 9:13 am
  16. Play nice James or I might call the cops. 😉

  17. vintagejames on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 9:34 am
  18. You’re suspicious. Doubt if they would believe you.

  19. missheather on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 9:39 am
  20. But I if was a bigwig property owner like Magic Johnson they would! Money talks.

  21. vintagejames on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 11:22 am
  22. That should be “if I were” but you ain’t, and I ain’t either. We just live here which ain’t important to the powers that be.

  23. GBnet on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 1:50 pm
  24. missheather on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 2:16 pm
  25. You have a point, James: people like us are merely treated like criminals for walking around our own damned neighborhood. I for one find this offensive— probably because I am NOT a criminal.

  26. rowan on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 2:29 pm
  27. that’s horrible. people never cease to amaze me.

  28. yakitori on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 3:16 pm
  29. Most pigs at the NYPD are scumbags (not all) most.

  30. vintagejames on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 3:38 pm
  31. Heather, you are totally correct. Once, I was tackled, handcuffed and taken to the slammer for no reason except for stupid cops–they were just kids who wanted to be in Coney Island for the summer, but totally ignorant of the laws. Everything was thrown out in court. But I didn’t sue. I should have, not for the money but to help stop this kind of shit.

  32. petebaroni on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 7:18 pm
  33. This is typical of the police. They want to exercise some type of authority.
    They arrested me once for walking down the street with a skateboard — They said it was illegal to skateboard on the sidewalk. Pfft.


  34. Stacy on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 7:44 pm
  35. Actually, I think the real jerk here is the person who called the cops on you. They were the one who pegged you as a threat for God knows what reason. Once the call was made the police had no choice but to respond, and I’m sure they thought it was as ridiculous as you did.

  36. missheather on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 7:54 pm
  37. Actually, they seemed to take their job quite seriously, Stacy. Especially the male officer. I could tell he totally gets his rocks off bullying people around and trying to scare them.

  38. eddiebee on Thu, 20th Dec 2007 10:22 pm
  39. as a local lifer, I will testify… slow day at the ol’ 94th has been the favorite cliche redundancy for years. remember those cd guys on n7th and bedford in front of the deli-mart? they always had weird stuff, from obscure nine simone to obscurer hawkwind… well not this christmas, and the street smart solution? “6 blocks south, nice spot, different precinct”. i understand it’s considered a safe hiding spot for questionably qualified rookie cops, too. i could go on and on.
    isn’t russell st the best decorated anymore? other than the halloween house on humboldt.
    great story sometime…my great-granduncle was a cop at the 94th in like 1907 and shot some pro-boxer wifebeater (in the back, i’m pretty sure). shockingly, he was put on trial…less shockingly, he was thoroughly let off.

  40. PictureNewYork LG on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 9:05 am
  41. We linked to you . . .

  42. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 9:21 am
  43. I noticed that this morning, thanks!

  44. purplepenguin74 on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 10:49 am
  45. yikes…taking photos while wearing a Sanrio hat got you into trouble? I got a ticket for walking outside of a party in GP with a beer in my hand and having a conversation with friends at 3 am. We just stepped out of the door or 10 seconds, but a cop car just so happened to pass by and we all got tickets for open containers in public–a 25-dollar fine. Just got back from court last week, not much to do but pay the dang thing. But I kept thinking to myself–“oh, the cops’re just trying to meet their quotas…”. Mr. Potter is ruining Bedford Falls.

  46. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 10:55 am
  47. Five years ago I had a neighbor steal, endorse and try to cash an unemployment check I received. The clerk at the check cashing establishment seized it and contacted me. I contacted the police. They refused to do anything because I got my check back. Clearly they prefer ticketing people for pissant quality of life crimes or, in my case, busting the chops of a 30-something year old housewife taking pictures than to be bothered with real criminals.

  48. MASKEDMAN on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 2:49 pm
  49. Ahhh Miss Heather…
    But if your house was broken into by someone who had been casing your neighborhood, so upset you would be at the Police Department for not doing there job.
    How you would say they were at a donut shop or such, instead of properly investigating a 911 call of a suspicious person.
    You say “Was I dressed in a manner that would be construed as menacing?”. How would the police know that? Because if they thought that, they would be profiling…ooohhhh and just think of the story you would have then!!!!
    Give the Officers a break…really.

  50. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 3:01 pm
  51. I have a better idea: they should cut us a break and (as I said in the comment previous to yours) go after real criminals.

    It’s easy to criticize when you have not had an experience like mine— and I hope you never do. Your cynicism saddens me. Nonetheless, I wish you happy and healthy holiday season.

  52. MASKEDMAN on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 3:03 pm
  53. I find it very funny…
    People riding their bicycles on the sidewalk, people drinking in public….all against the law.
    How can you be upset about getting a summons for beaking ther law?
    Don’t know if anyone has kids, but have you ever tried to walk on the sidewalk with a stroller while bicycles wiz by you…it’s not fun.
    Laws are there for a reason, if you want to play, you have to pay my friends.
    Oh how everyone would complain if they were sleeping, and some people were outside drinking beers and making noise keeping them up. But I’m sure you weren’t making any noise…right?
    Maybe the cops should just do NOTHING….see how you like it then.

  54. MASKEDMAN on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 3:06 pm
  55. Cut you a break for what Miss Heather? Just don’t investigate the complaint. You can’t be serious

  56. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 3:13 pm
  57. If you are going to be abusive, “Maskedman” I am going to revoke your account. I have gone through enough hell this week. I am the victim in this situation. Not you and certainly not the NYPD. Simple as that.

  58. MASKEDMAN on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 3:37 pm
  59. Well Miss Heather, I’m sorry you took me as abusive, I was simply asking a question and not trying to be abusive.
    But, if you think that is abuse, NOW I can understand why simple questions by the Police to understand your actions causes you to call the Officer names like Barney Fife.
    You’re way too sensitive.
    By the way, you should really THANK the Police for the job they have done there in the 94 Pct. THEY are the reason you can walk around that precinct looking at decorations, instaed of looking at hookers, pimps and drug dealers (as it was years ago).
    But instead you get mad at them for simply doing their job.
    Victim? Victim of what?
    You really have to think about this Miss Heather…

    Please don’t assume you know me, or know my experiences, as I quote you “when you have not had an experience like mine”.
    I was pulled over by the Police all the time when I first started driving because I looked so young. They would pull me over, ask me for ID, question me, then send me on my way.
    I didn’t mind, ya know why?…because I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I had NOTHING to worry about and they were just doing their job……
    Have a very Merry Christmas Miss Heather, and enjoy your New Year.

  60. rexlic on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 3:46 pm
  61. Hang in there, Miss H. Don’t let “Masked Man” get to you–he’s clearly going to say the opposite of whatever you do, for his own obscure reasons.

    It is up to the police to use their experience and discretion to assess each situation, including the person who makes the call; that is a legitimate way to investigate each complaint. There was a case ten years ago in Manhattan, where a cop responding to a call made by a serial complainer was killed in an accident on his way to the scene; turns out, most of the calls made by the man were bogus.

    Myself and a buddy, as dopey young kids, were standing across from Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studio on W. 8th Street. I had told my friend the Stones were supposed to be in there recording, and he wanted to see them come out. Next thing we know we’re being approached by the cops; they grab us, a guy in the back seat of a black-and-white points to us, and we’re on our way to the 6th Precinct, under arrest for grand larceny. That we could fully account for our whereabouts for the whole evening, that we hadn’t committed the crime (to this day, I don’t believe any crime actually took place)–all of that was irrelevant. We were now being run through the system, and 17 hours in lockup and three court appearances accompanied by a very pricey Park Avenue lawyer later, the city reluctantly laid aside the charges against us. Only because my dad was a cop in Jersey and called in every favor he could did we we get treated with any restraint, any consideration.

    So let’s not fool ourselves for a second. This kind of treatment, and far worse, is possible in an heartbeat in this city. That the NYPD does an impossible job well as often as it does, deserves the thanks of its citizenry; their blind spots, from bored patrolmen hassling a petite Hard Hat Hannah-carrying local resident, up to and including brutality, must be noted and dealt with by all of us, as well.

  62. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 4:24 pm
  63. Well said, Rexlic.

  64. lookma_nohans on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 4:28 pm
  65. Maskedman isn’t being very nice about it, but he/she made one good point. This is the time of year when many families leave town on short vacations, and when professional burglars are known to spend time casing homes for which family (and hopefully their neighbors) are out of town. While MissHeather wasn’t doing anything wrong, I don’t blame either the concerned citizen or the police for investigating.

    While it may sound like the interaction was ridiculous, an alert officer would have noticed a few things: First, MissHeather probably had an “innocent” expression and demeanor — a “guilty” expression isn’t enough to warrant an arrest but it would merit more investigation. Second, MH had a sensible explanation for what she was doing taking pictures of a bunch of people’s houses — a professional burglar might have had a similar reply, but also might have sounded a lot less convincing. Third, MH displayed good knowledge of the area that might not have been automatic to a visiting burglar claiming to be from the neighborhood.

    Look, none of these things are airtight proof either that MH had innocent intentions. Nor would an inferior response from someone else have meant that they were trouble. But this kind of interaction is precisely the sort of thing the police are trained to do — keep it short, be polite, and try to allay fears if possible. All three were accomplished. I agree that photographers take more than their share of scrutiny, but this one doesn’t bother me.

  66. MASKEDMAN on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 5:05 pm
  67. Rexlix,
    So the Police have a person who says they were robbed, that person points YOU and your friend out for doing the robbery. What are the police suppossed to do? Are they not suppossed to arrest you? I’m very confused.

  68. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 6:00 pm
  69. Here is a little info regarding “Maskedman’s” URL for everyone’s edification:

    OrgName: New York City Police Department
    OrgID: NYCPD
    Address: One Police Plaza
    City: New York
    StateProv: NY
    PostalCode: 10038
    Country: US

    Not only have I take a screen cap of all the information (including phone numbers), but I have forwarded it to a number of my fellow bloggers, concerned friends, and reporters for such print papers as:

    The Wall Street Journal
    The New York Times
    The NY Post
    The NY Daily News

  70. rexlic on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 6:33 pm
  71. Masked Man: What I learned from this experience is that anyone can accuse anybody else of anything–and that without the police showing a reasonable amount of professional judgment and experience in dealing with it, we’re all at great risk.

    The guy who fingered us said he saw three guys break into his buddy’s car, across the street from the rooftop of his apartment at night, and that my friend and I had been part of it. Some fundamental questions could have been asked right then and there: where was the third guy? where was the swag? where had we been at the time of the commission of the (very alleged) crime?

    That evening we had been in the Red Lion on Bleecker Street, and in Bleecker Bob’s record shop, then on MacDougal, where I had spoken to Bob at length. It seems to me that given those facts–all easily obtainable with a modicum of investigation–that we would not have been, and should not have been, arrested. Even taken to the Sixth for further questioning, OK. But if that’s the threshold for an arrest, no wonder the courts are as clogged as they are. And no wonder the city pays out as much as it does each year in wrongful arrest suits (and I absolutely would sue if that ever occurred again, only to have the story out there, on the record).

    Naturally, our accuser never showed in court, despite being subpoenaed. And due to the case eventually being tossed, our prints were supposed to be removed from the city, state and Federal systems, only I have no idea if they ever were. So in that sense, the baseless accusations of a stranger, and insufficient effort on behalf of the NYPD, may still haunt me 28 years later.

    According to your logic, I can flag down the next black-and-white I see, point to the first person I see, accuse them of a crime that never took place…AND THEY SHOULD BE ARRESTED. True, the system may get around to taking me to task for perpetrating a fraud–I’m sure that would be cold comfort indeed to the person I fingered.

  72. nycphotorights on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 6:36 pm
  73. NYPD appears to be out of control when it comes to harassing photographers in this city.

    In response to a recent lawsuit by the NYCLU the MOFTB (Mayor’s Office on Film Theater and Broadcasting) proposed the following rule with respect to photography in the city:

    (2) The following activities do not require that a permit be obtained pursuant to this
    (i) Filming or photography occurring on City property, as described in
    subdivision (a) of this section, involving the use of hand-held devices as defined in
    paragraph three of subdivision (a) of § 9-02, provided that such activity neither involves
    the obstruction of one or more lanes of a street or walkway of a bridge, nor results in less
    than eight feet or one half of the width of a sidewalk or other public pedestrian
    passageway, whichever is greater, for unobstructed sidewalk use by pedestrian traffic.

    Unfortunately in spite of these rules which clearly allow photography the NYCLU has found it necessary to file a second lawsuit. It is obvious that police officers are either not aware of or consciously disregard the rights of photographers.

    It is even worse for railroad enthusiasts such as myself. In spite of a LAW (see 1050.9 (c))that makes it legal to take pictures in the subway – we are consistently misinformed by both NYPD and New York City Transit employees that photography in the subway is illegal.

    We can only hope that the NYCLU through political pressure and lawsuits can finally end this undeclared War against Photographers in the City of New York.

  74. nycphotorights on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 6:53 pm
  75. One more thing… To MASKEDMAN and other police apoligists: Sometimes it pays to use common sense before cops question photographers. Unfortunately common sense is a lost art 🙁 Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde did not need a camera to case the banks they were going to rob. Why is it then that you see someone with a camera and immediately think “suspect”… Besides what is a potential thief (or worse) likely to be using – would he be out there with a DSLR and lens that is BIGGER THAN YOUR EGO like I go around with or would he be sneaking around with a cellphone cam? Give photographers a break – let us enjoy a LEGAL hobby in peace.

  76. Steve of Astoria on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 9:57 pm
  77. I’d like to offer a solution (a terrible one): we could simply get tagged with barcodes. That way our friendly neighborhood superheroes can scan us and determine quickly and efficiently if we’re threats or not. Of course this seems scary to most of us but it’ll be OK. We will never be forced to give up our rights, we’ll simply volunteer to give them up. Here’s the bomb: unmarked detainees will have to wait for review but the tagged citizens will get EZ-Pass treatment. I like the idea of using technology to advance society’s future needs, so I’ll continue…
    —Feel free to skip to the next comment. My main point was stated.—
    The following is simply for amusement and is even more far out than my previous entry:
    IN THE FUTURE! > From one of the previous posts when missheather wrote:
    Five years ago “I contacted the police. They refused to do anything because I got my check back.” These tags/barcodes/whatever will apply to everyone else as well, including police officers and would-be criminals. Note: They may be one and the same at times.
    IN THE FUTURE! > We’ll all be able to dispense justice with public access complaint numbers. Won’t it be wonderful when a complaint is made and something will be done to better a situation. A would-be criminal will be dealt with based on their history and the amount of complaints against them. It’s of utmost importance that the public access complaint numbers remain public. If the authorities are given the privilege to change complaint history then we’ll be worse off than before. But I’ll stay positive and will paint a picture of a police officer who may have made an error.
    IN THE FUTURE! > If a neighborhood feels that a complaint was not followed through with, someone will pay. If a neighborhood feels harassed by a certain police officer, naturally the people will cast their vote. See “Bodega Cats In Today’s NYTimes” for another example of when justice goes the wrong way. If a typical neighborhood could weigh in pro or con for cats to stay in delis, which way would it go?

    Happy Holidays to all

  78. missheather on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 10:32 pm
  79. Indeed Steve, Happy Holidays to all and goodnight.

  80. nobugs on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 10:47 pm
  81. If this was a digital camera and the police asked nicely, perhaps Miss Heather would have shown them the photos she had just taken. If she had done so, they’d have seen photo after photo of ornaments and decorations. Not photo after photo of little sidedoors or loose A/Cs or open windows where one might break into a house.

    I get that people are nervous about crime but it is not a crime to take a picture of a building.

  82. marie on Fri, 21st Dec 2007 11:24 pm
  83. Dear ole’ maskedman is a cop, but really, so what.?I have to say yakitori’s referring to cops as pigs is hugely offensive and bigoted. And I’m a big newyorkshitty fan so please don’t think I belong to whatever the current dark side is…I agree that being given the third degree about taking pictures is total overkill. But the kneejerk anticop reaction is something I find as fundmentalist (ie SCARY, as fundemenatlism precludes thought) and blinkered as the attitude and outlook so many of us attribute to cops and their establishment ilk.

  84. marie on Sat, 22nd Dec 2007 2:01 am
  85. So I can’t type. Fuck. Please blame jetlag, I just got to the other side of the globe.

  86. kasia on Wed, 5th May 2010 8:03 pm
  87. O gosh….. This is my house with BLACK SANTA:)

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