NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mysterious metal towers are popping up at local tunnels, and soon they’ll start appearing at bridges, too.

But even people on the MTA board in charge of the towers can’t say why they’re being used or what’s in them, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reports.

Jose Lugo said the tall metal towers quickly appeared up after the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel tolls booths came down.

“We don’t really know what’s the purpose of this,” he told Carlin.

It’s a $100 million MTA project shrouded in secrecy, with 18 of them for tunnels and bridges. So what are they exactly?

The MTA’s man in charge of the bridges and tunnels, Cedrick Fulton, dodged Carlin’s questions Wednesday.

“I said no comment,” he said.

Some MTA board members, including New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, say they know too little about the towers – even with half the money already spent and some of the towers already up.

“A lot of the board members felt they didn’t have all the details they would have wanted, myself included,” she said.

Residents suspect there is much more going on in the towers than meets the eye and wonder if they’ll ever really know what’s going on inside of them.

“I’m going to guess that it’s not just a decoration,” Alyssa Renkas, of the Upper West Side, said.

“It’s a bit mind-boggling that the MTA is approving $100 million for what appears to us to be big, decorative pylons,” says John Kaehny, the leader of the watchdog group Reinvent Albany. “What we’re asking for is transparency from the MTA.”

CBS2 demanded answers from MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.

Carlin: “Some of your own board members say they don’t know the specifics.”

Lhota: “The base of these new pieces that are going up include whatever fiber optics are necessary for those Homeland Security items.”

In other words, anti-terror technology. Could that one day include facial recognition? We don’t know and Lhota won’t say.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss that,” he told Carlin.

So as more of these expensive towers rise, the mystery is tucked away inside them.

Lhota said all necessary Homeland Security technology remains in place at all crossings, even the ones that don’t have the new towers yet.

Comments (61)
  1. gusbrum says:

    If is face recognition they are barking at the wrong tree, after all, how could you do face recognition of the airplanes that hit the twin towers?

  2. Nathan Vigil says:

    can someone please tell me what company is building these? what security firm or?

  3. taxpayers pay these people’s salaries, and they pay for those stupid towers, it should be illegal for the MTA to just do this in secrecy and release no details.

  4. The government of the US, which sponsors more terrorism than any other in the world except for Saudi Arabia, is installing technology in a US city with no one knowing what it is, what it does, or why it is being installed? When asked the “authorities” basically say “It’s none of your business.”

    This is the United States folks. And most people who read this will think I am terrible…lol.

    1. Come on folks think about it. There is really no mystery here. Don’t make a big deal about it.
      They took the old style toll booths down and then these things suddenly appear. Anyone wanna guess what they could possibly be? Hmmm? Meet your new automated, auto billing toll booths. The fiber optics in the base are for transmitting the data of all those license plate numbers to debit the appropriate credit card or bank account. Yours! They are auto billing, automatic toll collectors. What would be the best initiative for these things? Could it be maybe… your MONEY?

  5. Are they bullet and bomb proof?

  6. Joe Seijo says:

    They are fart detectors.

  7. Brain-Dead ‘Noo Yawkahs’ Have Been Bought And Sold, And Don’t Even Know It.

  8. It’s a pay by the mile toll scheme, voted unanimously by YOUR elected officials, within the framework of UN agenda 21. These were voted in over 10 years ago without your knowledge. The other half of the toll system is already installed in your late model auto, by law, it’s linked to the GPS device.

  9. Big brother is watching you…. Our transit systems are extremely vulnerable. My guess is Nuclear, biological and chemical detection systems, but I suspect that they will have many other “uses” than just that.
    Very Orwellian…. 1984 was supposed to be a warning, NOT an instruction manual.

  10. I suspect they’re NBC detectors with facial and license plate recognition.
    NBC = Nuclear, Biological and Chemical.
    If you noted in the news piece they said they’re popping up at the entrances to tunnels and bridges. DHS is involved, and either no one knows what they are, or they’re not talking.

    Obvious isn’t it.

  11. An absolute failure of reporting. Not one picture of a tower , that is a project with totally secrecy !!
    Reporter is a fiction writer.

    1. Clearly you didn’t watch the story.

  12. What goes up can come down. What did the Sons of Liberty do to the statues of King George III?

  13. Jimmy Kilpatrick says:

    Open Records Request. The rats have no where to hide the public needs to know ASAP. It could be the Russians are completely involved in this security venture,

    1. Kabamur says:

      The Russian propaganda is fake FYI

      1. Russia did buy 8000 ads on facebook for the Republican party soo its not far fetched.

  14. CG Rain says:

    Those look like speakers on the top, maybe some kind of HF thing to disable people nearby, seen it used in riot control, but why by bridges? To keep people out or from leaving? Ideas run rampant when they don’t give the public any info about these things. Jerks. And paid for by the people, too!

  15. Richard Frey says:

    Radar waves criss crossing Brooklyn which will deflower all Brooklynites to keep them from reproducing more “protesters”……..

  16. Sam Wise says:

    Its just more of the police state paid for by you, the ignorant taxpayer.
    Stop paying the crooks.

    1. “Exempt income” and “Income that is not” … are ALREADY codified in U.S. tax regulations.
    2. According to regulations, most Americans DON’T owe any income tax.

    Look it up…
    “exempt income means”
    “income that is not considered tax exempt”
    ecfr g ov

    Computer scientist data mines tax code for deductions and excluded income, finds fraud.
    whatistaxed c om

  17. Back Scatter radar to see what is in your pants.

  18. John Jones says:

    They’re positioned at bridges and tunnels for a reason, which is that EVERYBODY has to use traverse them sooner or later. This is about facial recognition and logging at the very least, and undoubtedly a lot more.

  19. Deep State has to keep an eye on you lest you scribble graffiti or threaten to have some fun.

  20. Obviously, the government will be tracking the passage of vehicles.

  21. Doug Jones says:

    How Complacent and illiterate have you all become? Damn it! You Neanderthals pay taxes for this! Don’t ask the question! Goddamn it! Demand an answer and follow through. Your government has been training you, your children and their minds for a long time. Wise up!

    1. We need your leadership, O Wise One! Show us what to do! Tell us how to do it! You are smarter than we are, Sagacious One! Lead us out of the darkness into the light!

  22. Rick Fischer says:

    Read any Sci-Fi dystopia and you can see it forming before your eyes. In the name of security, the government will spy on us all. But not to worry; no one in government has ever used their power for other than honorable purposes.

    “We had to burn the village down in order to save it.”

  23. Don McCoy says:

    These towers in NYC? More likely anti-Conservative measures than anit-terror measures!

  24. Jason Prate says:

    How dare people who live in communities ask what the government is doing with THEIR money and about things they are building in THEIR community. Why the hell do you think citizens should be informed about what their government is doing, especially if its to them? Do they think they should have any say in this? Silly citizens, its not like you live in a democratic republic where those making decisions should be held accountable for their actions. We know anyone with any power is never really held accountable (other than the laughable ‘well you can vote them out’)

    1. BEFORE TERROR STRIKE- The government is spying on us. We must demand full disclosure. AFTER TERROR STRIKE- Oh please protect us from the mean terrorists dear government!!

  25. Bart Drennon says:

    Whatever it is, if it has a capability of being used illegally against innocent Americans, IT WILL BE.

  26. Bill Loyal says:

    Typical NYC secrecy and creepiness. More snooping and spying by the police state of New Jerk.

  27. It’s the Russians. I’m sure of it. But seriously, c’mon folks. It’s some kind of surveillance tool. Say something bad about DeBlasio, and *POOF* you’ll be vaporized for having racist thoughts.

  28. Apparently, despite bugging our President, the NSA seems to be getting everything they want. Surprised?

  29. Frank Marino says:

    So they should make public what this anti-terror technology public and how it works so that the terrorists can figure out how to get around it and kill us? But at least the conspiracy theorists would then be able to sleep at night knowing that it was not Big Brother listening to their cell phone calls. The citizenry of this country has become so stupid. Let the government do its job. You do not need to know everything.

  30. They are probably hyper sensitive radiation sniffers, infrared scanners and cell phone decoders. That would be my guess.

  31. Yet they are already built……. Now you question what they are for…..I say we topple THESE “statues” but idiots only want to mess with our history not our safety.

  32. This is not rocket science folks. They are likely new and improved Radiation Detectors. It was a fairly open secret that following 9/11 there are or were several layers of radiation and chemical weapon detectors at the entrance points to Manhattan to screen for vehicles carrying radioactive cargo. Particularly seeking any signs of a weaponized cargo, be it a true nuclear bomb or the feared crude dirty bombs. A moments thought would tell you those systems were likely largely located at the toll plaza’s. As they change or remove the toll plaza’s they are putting in new improved threat detectors. And of course they will all play dumb about it.

    1. thedan1337 says:

      This is not rocket science, and you’re not even sure what they’re for.

  33. Mark my words: They are related to developing & setting up a driverless/transportation system.

    1. Ken Dicus says:

      That would be my guess. NBC detectors.

  34. Alternative communication system in case of an EMP attac?

  35. galleries66 says:

    Multi-dimensional mass surveillance is here. Your daily travel patterns id you uniquely just like your face. Add to that your phone and any chip devices… and..

  36. Joe Burney says:

    Come on guys. There are only a handful of things they could be doing, either transmitting or collecting information. Transmitting cellular information is possible, but unlikely. Too short by far. Collecting information would be limited to (1) taking pictures–facial recognition or license plate or both; (2) Detecting radio–your wheels issue relatively unique radio signals detectable at 100 feet or so as part of your tire pressure system. Your car may have some sort of other transponder like unique signal but I doubt it very much. But yah, wheels definitely. Or (3) Nuclear decay particle detection–looking for dirty bomb material. And that is pretty much it. If I was betting on one of these three, it would guess (1) and then weakly (3). The city wants to know who enters it, and where they go. Eh. It’s their business to do that, and if they can actually pull it off, more power to them. If it is (3), well then, if the detectors actually work, more power to them, but I can’t imagine any nuclear material that can’t be shielded down to background rates, so it is a crap shoot to try to detect, say, a couple of kilos of well shielded nasty material. On the other hand, you have to be pretty skilled not to be sloppy with the stuff as has been shown hundreds if not thousands of times …

  37. David Alster says:

    Cameras to detect violators of government speak.

  38. Glenn Thomas says:

    They found “Charlie” and they are keeping him in one of those towers.

  39. Mike Knox says:

    One thing’s for sure. What ever they say they are for, you can bet that they will have multiple applications. It all part of their ‘internet of things’.

  40. looks like the toll gates used on the toll highways

  41. Tony Welker says:

    Can you say Jason Bourne?

  42. Wasted Money. It Doesn’t matter what technology is in them, DHS/TSA have not stopped one single terrorist since the Make-Work-For-Lifelong-Democrat-Voters Bureaucracies were created.

  43. yeah its either stingray, ALPR, cameras, or combination of all of that

  44. screw the feds… do not comply… feed disinfo on a massive scale…

  45. I betcha they are stingrays (or similar technology) – which make your cell phone thinks they are connecting to a legitimate cell tower and then the stingray monitors all your incoming and outgoing communications. They had them secretively in Seattle until the city was busted for using the technology.

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