Republican Mayoral Hopefuls Say Drones Should Patrol NYC

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John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota and George McDonald. (Photo: Jill Colvin)

The three leading Republican candidates for mayor all support the use of controversial unmanned drones to watch over New York City–as long as cameras aren’t peering into their bedrooms.

“I’m absolutely for it,” said former MTA Chair Joe Lhota, speaking at a candidates’ forum hosted by the New York Young Republican Club in Midtown Tuesday night. “Drones to be used from a surveillance point of view, so long as it understands people’s privacy rights.”

He pointed to the Boston Marathon bombings and said that drones could have been used just like helicopters to find suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was discovered hiding inside a boat, obscured by its cover.

“They’re not to be used in a military fashion, in the way we use them in the Middle East,” he said. “But from collecting intelligence, from following what’s going on, a drone is no different than having a camera on the street corner watching what you’re doing in a public place. And we now know how important cameras are to how quickly law enforcement was able to get to people in Boston.”

Supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis also endorsed the technology and vowed to do anything in his power to keep the city safe.

“I think we have to use 21st Century technology like we talked about to help keep New Yorkers safe, and I’m fully committed to anything that exists to keep New Yorkers safe,” he said. “I will press that button and make sure it happens.”

Doe Fund Founder George McDonald agreed that more surveillance was inevitable, saying that “Cameras are going to be a part of our life, whether we like it or not.”

But he stressed that there needs to be a balance when it comes to privacy.

“Obviously I don’t want a drone lookin’ in my bedroom,” he said. “And I think that all of us have to stay vigilant about the line where our individual freedoms and our collective responsibilities begin.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said that he, too, had concerns about the technology, but thought the reality of drones hovering over the city’s skyline was inevitable.