Five Key Changes to NYCHA Safety

Five Key Changes to NYCHA Safety

Five Key Changes to NYCHA Safety
July 8, 2014

Responding to a surge in gun violence at New York City Housing Authority developments, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be investing $210.5 million into public housing, with a heavy focus on improving public safety.

The mayor prefaced his statement on the new funding by noting the city is simply picking up the slack from the federal government, which has steadily decreased the amount of money it allocates for public housing. 

"We’ve suffered from decades now of federal disinvestment in affordable housing, and particularly in public housing," de Blasio said. "But that means that for all of us here in New York City, we have to redouble our efforts to support the residents of NYCHA, to make sure despite federal neglect that we’re doing the best we can to shore up and strengthen the housing authority."

The announcement was made at the Wagner Houses in East Harlem, where de Blasio was joined by NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye, as well as NYPD Assistant Chief Carlos Gomez, the head of the police department's Housing Bureau, and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Of the $210.5 million that will go to NYCHA from the previous and current budgets, $87 million will be applied to violence-reducing measures.

The crime-fighting initiative will focus on 15 housing developments, which collectively account for 20 percent of the violence in housing developments citywide. Those developments include Boulevard, Brownsville, Bushwick, Ingersoll, Red Hook, Van Dyke and Tompkins in Brooklyn; Butler, Castle Hill, and Patterson in the Bronx; Polo Grounds, St. Nicholas, and Wagner in Manhattan; and Queensbridge and Stapleton in Queens and Staten Island, respectively.

City & State highlights five of the key components to the public housing safety initiative:

1. LIGHTING 

Work will begin on Monday to install new lighting in housing developments to deter criminals who, literally, hide in the shadows. More than 150 light towers will be rolled out over the next few months, after which a more long-term lighting design process will begin, with a particular focus on the perimeter of the developments. Toward the end of the press conference, de Blasio was asked about what will happen if and when vandals break the new lights. “The police presence will help keep it intact and strong. If there are any problems, we’re going to replace it,” he said. Assistant Chief Gomez added that many of the developments had cameras to catch perpetrators.

2. SIDEWALK SHEDS

The new initiative promises to focus on removing “sidewalk sheds”—scaffolding that has not been taken down—which would-be criminals use as hideouts. Nearly 11 miles of shed will be removed by next spring. $50 million will be used for additional safety improvements, including security cameras.

3. EVENING YOUTH PROGRAMS

More than 107 community centers that are focused on youth programing for children between the ages of 5 and 17 will be open until at least 11 p.m., from July 7 to August 29, as a way to keep kids out of trouble. De Blasio pointed out that this increase marks the first time in 30 years that the centers will stay open so late. Police officers will be stationed at the centers until closing time. The mayor’s office estimates that this initiative will help keep approximately 18,000 children safe.

4. INCREASED POLICE PRESENCE

An additional 700 officers will be deployed to NYCHA’s 15 aforementioned targeted housing developments throughout the city. Assistant Chief Gomez, however, reserved the right to maintain a fluid force and move the officers as he sees fit. “If we see conditions change or crime spikes … we will certainly attend to them,” Gomez said. Those additional officers are available in part as a result of the NYPD's  “civilianization process"—part of its Fiscal Year 2015 plan to hire 200 civilian officers, and move 200 police officers off of desk-duty. That plan, however, is still in the infant stages, so in the meantime 101 NYCHA officers will be coming from from the Police Academy’s new graduating class of 600 cadets. Gomez also cited the “Summer All Out” initiative, which began Monday, as a potential source of additional officers.

5. WELLNESS VISITS

The police will take part in “wellness visits” to residents who are recent crime victims, elderly victims, accident victims or domestic violence victims to make sure that they have proper services and referrals. “We believe this will promote and foster good relationships with the residents that we serve,” Assistant Chief Gomez said. When asked about how the police were being trained for such duties, de Blasio interjected that the new academy graduates are taught with a much greater focus on working with community members and “gaining a trustful, positive relationship.” Domestic violence, which is high in housing developments, is a major priority to address, and there will be grassroots teams dedicated to outreach and education about the concern. 

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Azure Gilman
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