NYC Department of Records and Information Services

NYC Department of Records and Information Services


Beginning in 1904 with the “Italian Squad’s” focus on anarchists and continuing to the present day, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has conducted surveillance of individuals and infiltrated organizations perceived as enemies of the status quo. At different periods, the focus was on immigrants, labor leaders, Nazi supporters, socialists, anarchists, and communists. One of the most prolific squads was the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (BOSSI), later known as the Special Services Division.

Although BOSSI gathered intelligence on individuals and groups arrayed along the political spectrum, their main focus was on civil rights, anti-war and feminist protestors. The records, including surveillance film, created by BOSSI now provide unique documentation of one of the most turbulent eras in the City and nation’s history.  The materials address subjects such as the Vietnam War, the nascent environmental movement, racial and gender discrimination, fair housing, workers’ rights, as well as global issues such as independence and sovereignty, the spread of communism, and poverty.


Grover Whalen, Commissioner of the Department of Plant & Structures launched WNYC Radio in 1924. Through their original programming and recordings made at City Hall events and press conferences, WNYC Radio reporters, engineers and producers captured a wide range of important cultural and political personalities. Over time, WNYC Radio grew into both AM and FM stations, as well as a television station that enhanced the civic life of New Yorkers until Mayor Giuliani privatized WNYC in 1996. Today, the WNYC Foundation continues the mission of WNYC-AM/FM and TV as part of the non-profit corporation New York Public Radio.

WNYC covered some of the key developments of the 20th century in the City of New York and the world at large. The Space Race, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Cold War, Civil Rights, and Nelson Mandela’s 1990 visit are just some of the historic periods and events documented in these recordings. WNYC also brought arts, culture and entertainment to New Yorkers with regular poetry readings, festivals, interviews with prominent artists, as well as features on local occurrences and developments in the neighborhoods of New York City.

Archive Exhibitions Supported by NYC Department of Records and Information Services

NYC Undercover: Post-War Sound and Vision from NYPD Surveillance and WNYC Radio

Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
 archive : 2023

Surveillance films of individuals and events made by the NYPD in the 1960s and ’70s are matched with vintage audio excerpts from City-owned WNYC radio programs, creating unique and dynamic new content.

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