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HPD Urged To Listen To Demand Of Privacy Protection Of Manhattan Plaza Tenants

The NYCLU and the Manhattan Plaza Tenant Coalition Opposed to Fingerprinting issued the following joint statement today following tenants’ overwhelming rejection of a proposal to implement a fingerprint identification system at the federally subsidized apartment complex primarily for performing artists.

We are pleased that the tenants at Manhattan Plaza, the federally subsidized apartment complex for performing artists, have voted overwhelmingly to reject proposals to implement a fingerprint identification system for tenants to gain full access to their homes. In the voting, 70% of the tenants opposed the plan.

The fingerprinting proposal sparked a great deal of debate, and we commend the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association for facilitating an important and valuable discussion.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU added, “The controversy at Manhattan Plaza is an example of what we are dealing with as a nation – differentiating between measures that are necessary and will actually enhance our security, and those, like this one, which offer only the illusion of security, but great risk to our personal freedom.”

Lieberman added, “The managing agent proposed the fingerprint plan as a supposed safeguard against terrorism and urged tenants to discount concerns about privacy. But when the hard questions were asked, it turned out that fingerprint identification offered little by way of added security, but a lot by way of privacy risks. It would create a database of tenant fingerprints, which would be vulnerable to abuse”.

In a letter to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the NYCLU urged the HPD to “exercise your authority regarding the administration of Section 8 housing and reject this vague, ill -conceived fingerprint identification scheme that would undermine privacy without any demonstrable benefit to security.”

Susan Johann, a spokesman for the tenant coalition, which was organized in response to the plan, commented, “The tenants have spoken. That ought to put an end to any ideas about Big Brother coming to Broadway.”

Johann added, “the plan was presented as a voluntary measure, but it would have created a two tiered tenancy system where tenants who refused to participate would have been denied access to their homes through all but the main entrance.”

Both organizations will continue to urge HPD to respect tenants’ overwhelming opposition to the plan and ensure that their privacy rights are not needlessly compromised.

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