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‘We saw it in action': NYC mayor praises, defends FDNY’s use of robot dog at collapse

The robotics team had been training downtown and responded about 15 minutes after the first distress call, said Commissioner Laura Kavanagh



By Michael Gartland
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams took the city’s robot dog for a walk Tuesday morning to praise its work in last week’s downtown building collapse — and to thumb his nose at critics of the emergency response pooch.

The mayor, who was joined by FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and other top city officials, appeared at the fire department’s Randall’s Island training academy for a demonstration of the robo-dog and used the event to drive home his support of it and other new technologies the city is now employing.

“We rolled out similar technology a few weeks earlier in Times Square. Some people called them toys,” Adams said of the city’s announcement two weeks ago. “This is not play time. This is real time.”

Last week, when a parking garage collapsed on Ann St. in lower Manhattan, the FDNY deployed its robotic dog to search for people trapped in the wreckage and survey the scene — a move Adams touted at the time because it eliminated the need to put firefighters in harm’s way. The robot and its handlers were engaged in a training exercise at a downtown high-rise when the garage came down and arrived about 15 minutes after the first distress call went out, Kavanagh said.

“The robotics members went to work quickly, suggesting that the robotic dog could aid in the operation,” she said. “Three drones were also deployed — one overhead to give a clear picture of what was happening on the roof and two inside to assess the situation in there.”

Adams noted that it was the first time in the city’s history that the FDNY and NYPD responded with drones and the robot-dog, which is named Bergh. Fabien Levy, Adams’ spokesman, said the FDNY currently has two robotic dogs and the NYPD has ordered two.

“This is an administration that is not going to be fearful of using everything possible to save the lives of New Yorkers and to save the lives of first responders,” Adams said. “The benefits are not theoretical. Last week, we saw it in action.”

Critics remain skeptical, though.

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a civil rights group, has criticized the robot as dystopian, calling it a “knockoff Robocop.”

And the Legal Aid Society is demanding that the City Council hold an oversight hearing.

“Mayor Adams continues to pour money into the NYPD’s bloated budget, enabling police to impose new, dystopian surveillance technologies throughout the city without meaningfully engaging New Yorkers in a conversation about whether this is how we want to live,” said Legal Aid spokesman Redmond Haskins. “The Legal Aid Society urges the City Council to hold an immediate oversight hearing to further investigate the use of these technologies and to afford all New Yorkers the chance to have their voices heard.”

A Council spokesperson said the body will delve into the city’s tech purchases at an upcoming budget hearing scheduled for May 17.

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