The new CBS show "Person of Interest" is set in New York City and involves a "software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. Using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the two work outside of the law, using Reese’s adept skills and Finch’s unlimited wealth to unravel the mystery of the "person of interest" and stop the crime before it happens. With infinite crimes to investigate, Reese and Finch find that the right person, with the right information, at the right time, can change everything." So true — however, in most TV shows and movies a character sits down at a computer terminal for 2 minute, types in a few search words, and retrieves tons of detailed information. It doesn’t really work that way.
But in last week’s episode, "Witness," Finch needs information about a particular building in Manhattan. For a brief moment on his computer screen, you see him accessing the NYC Buildings Information System (BIS) to get the information he needs. To use the BIS, just enter the borough and street address — you then retrieve a Property Profile Overview, with a wealth of information about that building, including zoning documents, certificates of occupancy, complaints and violations, elevator records, electrical applications, permits in process/issued, and much more. You can expand your search to adjacent buildings on the block, or search by Community Board to find out about new buildings, alterations and demolitions in your neighborhood.
Visit the NYC Department of Buildings to find this type of information, but please — no vigilante justice.