Anti-car guerilla hackers change electronic street signs in Brooklyn

New York Daily News 1 month ago

It’s a sign of the times.

Anti-car vandals have hacked an electronic street construction sign in Brooklyn several times this month, reprogramming it to display statements like “Cars Are Death Machines,” “Cars Kill Kids” and “Use Bus Subway or Bike!”

The variable-message sign is owned by local demolition company Gramercy Group, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority contractor that is working to install a new elevator at the Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum subway station.

The sign is set up on Vanderbilt Ave. and is supposed to read “Construction Eastern Parkway," according to the city’s Department of Transportation. It has been hacked at least two times this month, according to photos of the sign shared on Twitter.

“We lock those signs up every night, but sometimes people break in,” Gramercy Group vice president Joe Castaldo told the Daily News. “We’ve changed the lock every day and reprogrammed the sign every day. They keep breaking it again.”

Road signs like the ones owned by Gramercy Group contain an access panel equipped with a small keyboard that allows crews to customize the displayed text.

Most electronic road signs require a password to change the text, but those who know how the technology works appear have an easy time hacking them, Castaldo said.

Castaldo said his company will be done with their street-level construction in early November, and will continue working on the new subway elevator shaft below the street until next fall.

The guerilla anti-car campaign comes the same week that a 10-year-old boy was struck and killed while riding his bike near his home in Kensington, Brooklyn. The boy was the 24th person to die on a bike in New York City this year, including those who have been killed on e-bikes.

Recent data has also shown that car crashes kill more people in New York than gun violence.

Hacking the signs is a crime, and if police catch a vandal changing a display they could be charged with felony criminal mischief, according to a police spokeswoman.

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