The New York Police Department seized the $1500.00 drone of George Steinmetz, a photojournalist with a 35-year career shooting for National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine, who was trying to take shots of a mass grave being built on Hart Island in a New York City. This took place on Wednesday, April 15th.
According to Steinmetz’ post “ I was cited by NYPD while taking this photo, and my drone was confiscated as evidence, for a court date tentatively scheduled for mid-August.” Steinmetz was able to capture a photo (below) of the burial site prior to the confiscation.
Steinmetz’s was charged with violating a city law know as Avigation that states: “It shall be unlawful for any person avigating an aircraft to take off or land, except in an emergency, at any place within the limits of the city other than places of landing designated by the department of transportation or the port of New York authority.” The law basically prohibits drones from taking off and landing from locations other than an airport.
Hart Island has been used by the city government for anonymous burials dating back to the 18th Century. But as the death toll from COVID-19 nears 10,000 in New York City and morgues across the city become overwhelmed, the number of burials on Hart Island has jumped to five times higher than usual.
The New York City Department of Corrections, which runs Hart Island, has kept it completely closed to press amid the coronavirus outbreak. The only photos of the site to become public were taken by photojournalists using aerial drones or helicopters.