- The New York Police Department spent decades infiltrating political organizations and spying on politically active New Yorkers.
- While surveillance continues in some form today, a public exhibit at the New York City Municipal Archives showcases what police spying looked like in the 1960s and ’70s during one of the most turbulent political periods in modern US history.
- But few New Yorkers know about this vast collection of surveillance materials.
- Business Insider dug through the archives to discover the scope of NYPD spying — and to see what they found.
In the dank quarters of a courthouse just a block away from City Hall in lower Manhattan, dozens of brown boxes of declassified surveillance records — compiled over the course of decades by undercover police detectives — remain largely un-examined, never before seen by the public.
The records include a mix of internal police reports and memos, photos, newspaper clippings, event fliers, political campaign buttons, and posters.
They are available for anyone to view. You just have to ask.
In September, the New York City Municipal Archives launched an unprecedented exhibit showcasing NYPD surveillance materials from 1960 to 1975, one of the most turbulent political periods in modern American history.
The exhibit, “Unlikely Historians: Materials Collected by NYPD Surveillance Teams“, gives visitors a small taste of just how far NYPD detectives went to infiltrate political organizations and investigate people they considered a threat.
But it ultimately represents just a fraction of the overall collection. Of the 520 boxes of NYPD surveillance materials in their possession, archivists at the Department of Records have only reviewed and catalogued about a quarter of them. The un-reviewed materials are temporarily stored at their office in Brooklyn.
“We’re just starting to get the word out,” Rossy Mendez, the collection’s lead archivist, told Business Insider. “So people don’t really know it exists.”
We visited the archives to see for ourselves:
The New York City Municipal Archives, which maintains the city’s historical records, is located at Surrogate’s Court in lower Manhattan.
In a storage room in the building’s basement, records and old video reels are meticulously organized.
The NYC Municipal Archives has a vast collection of materials, including records dating back to the colonial era. But in 2015, the department received one of its most politically divisive collections yet.