Two Housing Complexes to Get Security Cameras After Murder of Elderly Woman
ALLERTON — Two public housing complexes in The Bronx will get new cameras and other security equipment after the grisly slaying last month of an 88-year-old woman in one of the developments, officials said Tuesday.
After Evelyn Shapiro was found beaten to death inside her apartment in the Pelham Parkway Houses in Allerton on June 16, City Councilman James Vacca secured $1.6 million in capital funds to pay for the security upgrades there and at the Throggs Neck Houses in the southeast Bronx, the two public housing developments in his district.
He also committed another $3 million over the next two fiscal years for the cameras and building safeguards, which are expected to be installed beginning next year.
"It's been a frightening time for residents in both developments," Vacca said Tuesday outside the building where Shapiro was found in her fifth-floor apartment last month with a fractured skull, the apparent victim of a fatal push-in robbery.
But, he added, "We are determined to reclaim public housing."
The police so far have made no arrests in the case, but have offered $12,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
In the 49th Precinct, where the killing occurred, the number of murders, rapes, robberies and assaults all increased in the first half of this year over the same period last year, according to police data through July 1.
Both the Throggs Neck and Pelham Parkway Houses currently lack security cameras, which NYC Housing Authority officials have said is due to limited funding.
After the attack last month, many Pelham Parkway residents called for cameras and stepped-up security — particularly senior citizens, who are nearly half of all households in the 23-building development, according to Brad Silver, executive vice president of the Bronx Jewish Community Council.
"In the aftermath of the murder, it became apparent that this was a very high priority for us," said Andrea Bender, Vacca’s deputy chief of staff.
NYCHA is currently in the process of adding millions of dollars worth of high-tech cameras, wireless intercoms and locks controlled by electronic key tags to more than 80 public housing developments around the city — but only in districts where local elected officials secured funding.
The new security system, which NYCHA calls "layered access control," will for the first time connect different equipment, such as locks and cameras, to one another and to a central office. Now, if a door is propped open too long, or a camera fails, NYCHA will be automatically alerted.
Some lobby doors will be outfitted with bulletproof card readers that log when doors are opened and by whom.
NYCHA officials will meet with police and residents of the Throggs Neck and Pelham Parkway Houses in the coming weeks to determine where to install the cameras and door access controls, according to NYCHA spokeswoman Sheila Stainback.
Herma Williams, 57, president of the Pelham Parkway Residents Association, said she and other residents welcomed the cameras.
But she added that the cameras would be most effective if tenant volunteers have the ability to monitor the feeds, rather than just the police, who may only check the footage only after a crime has occurred.
"If it’s going to be a system where somebody comes around once a week to look at the camera, that may not work," Williams said.
Police officers only monitor the cameras in 15 of the 101 public housing developments with cameras, according to NYCHA. Resident leaders can be trained to access housing cameras under certain conditions, but tenant volunteers cannot.
"NYCHA believes strongly that access to our [closed-circuit TV] systems be restricted to law enforcement and trained personnel," NYCHA spokeswoman Zodet Negrón said in April.
At the Pelham Parkway Houses on Tuesday, residents recalled Shapiro, who lived in the development for more than 60 years, as a friendly grandmother who loved to run errands in her car and wear fancy gold jewelry.
"It's sad that it took this horrific thing to happen to this lady for action to be taken," said Ana Bayron, 43, Shapiro's former neighbor.