Outgoing New York mayor and potential presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is proposing what many call yet another assault on individual freedoms and constitutional rights.
The mayor proposed that all 620,000 people in public housing in New York City be fingerprinted in an attempt to verify their identities. The idea, he says, is to try and identify those with criminal records and persons who might not belong in the buildings – thus supposedly making the buildings safer.
“Five percent of our population lives in NYCHA housing, 20 percent of the crime is in NYCHA housing,” Bloomber said. “And we’ve just got to find some way to keep bringing crime down there. And we have a whole group of police officers assigned to NYCHA housing. The people that live there, most of them, want more police protection. They want more people. If you have strangers walking in the halls of your apartment building, don’t you want somebody to stop and say, ‘Who are you, why are you here?’”
Civil libertarians – and tenants – say Bloomberg is off the mark.
“I don’t feel that that’s right. Fingerprinted for what?” resident Alberta Hale told the local CBS affiliate. “He wants to prove we [live] here. All he has to do is ask to see the lease. I don’t think it’s right. Bloomberg has to stop this mess.”
Added resident Nino Alayon, “Bloomberg needs to get a job. Get out of here already. He’s done. Bloomberg is done.”’
Said resident Stacey Quinones, “Even with the [big] soda [ban], he is ridiculous. I glad that he’s leaving. I’m very glad. Give the opportunity to somebody who thinks like us.”
“I would submit that a very easy way to fix that would be to actually make sure that NYCHA housing actually have functioning door locks and security systems,” Carney said. “My understanding, having talked to a lot of tenants, is that’s a very big problem. You have broken doors, which anybody can open and close.”
The good news for Bloomberg’s critics? The candidates to succeed Bloomberg think it’s a bad idea, too.
“Disrespectful. Disgraceful,” mayoral candidate and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson said. “Just like stop-and-frisk, this is another direct act of treating minorities like criminals. Mayor Bloomberg wants to make New Yorkers feel like prisoners in their own homes.”
Another candidate, Bill de Blasio, said Bloomberg is “out of touch.”
“Fingerprinting people just for entering NYCHA buildings will achieve little more than to further embitter tens of thousands of innocent people who have done nothing wrong,” de Blasio said.
Bloomberg spokesperson Marc LaVorgna said there is no official fingerprinting proposal – although LaVorgna defended the idea. iPhones, he said, might have fingerprinting technology soon, and the idea is becoming more commonplace.
“Why wouldn’t we want to think about providing the highest level of security possible for NYCHA residents?” Mr. LaVorgna asked. “You place the strongest security measures on things of most value—what is more valuable than their homes?”
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called Bloomberg’s comments “derogatory.”
“Families live in public housing apartments, not criminals. Public housing residents, as well as their friends and family members visiting them, deserve the same level of respect from our Mayor as any other New York City resident,” Ifill said.
Bloomberg’s comments came the same week that US district judge Shira Scheindlin struck down the city’s stop-and-frisk strategy, under which police can stop and frisk anyone if they believe there is reasonable suspicion to do so.