The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

LES Public Housing Report Finds Lobbies Unlocked, Security Cameras Lacking

By Serena Solomon | September 21, 2012 7:17pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — Most public housing residents on the Lower East Side said they do not feel protected from trespassers in their home, a new report revealed Thursday.

The report, released by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, also found that half of the area's New York City Housing Authority buildings did not have security cameras and many intercom systems and lobby locks were broken.

"The results show we have a long way to go to keep our NYCHA residents safe," Stringer said of the report, which recently surveyed more than 500 NYCHA resident from 10 Lower East Side and East Village public housing developments.

Security at NYCHA buildings has come under scrutiny after a police officer was shot July 5 in a stairwell at the Seward Park Extension on Essex Street. The gunman hit the officer, Brian Groves, in the chest, but Groves' bulletproof vest saved his life, police said at the time.

Police have not yet found the suspect.

Seward Park Extension is one of the public housing complexes without security cameras, the politicians' report found. Others include LaGuardia Houses on Montgomery Street and Rutgers Houses on Pike Street, the report said.

The report also found that 43 percent of residents surveyed in buildings without cameras would feel much safer with them in place.

"I have some buildings that have cameras and some that don't, and it absolutely deters crime," said Aixa Torres, who is the tenant association president of Alfred E. Smith Houses on the Lower East Side.

Torres also noted that surveillance footage has helped solve crimes in the five buildings in her complex that have cameras. 

Fear of trespassers was also an issue for residents, with almost 70 percent of those surveyed saying they did not feel adequately protected. More than 50 percent of those surveyed said their lobby did not have a working lock or intercom system.

"We have some of our elders that won't come out of their apartments because they don't feel safe," said Dereese Huff, the tenant association president at Campos Plaza on East 13th Street.

Not only was lobby security an issue for Huff's housing complex, but she also spent her three-and-a-half years as tenant association president lobbying for cameras, she said.

While the report’s findings focus on Lower East Side NYCHA buildings, the politicians also called for improvements to public housing citywide.

The report requested that NYCHA "swiftly install" security cameras at 80 locations around the city by the end of 2013 and develop a plan to repair locks and intercoms.

NYCHA released a statement saying the agency "has had a comprehensive strategy in place to improve security in our public housing communities since the beginning of the year. It includes enhancing building entrance security by installing more cameras and improved key technology (wireless key cards that can’t be duplicated), as well as modern intercom systems." 

NYCHA added that about 85 developments, including 12 on the Lower East Side, will receive cameras and enhanced security features by the end of 2013.

"NYCHA can only install these security measures in developments where elected officials have allocated discretionary funding," the agency added. "Neither Assemblyman Kavanagh nor State Senator Squadron has allocated funding for this. Borough President Stringer has allocated only marginal funding for the Baruch Houses."

The politicians' report also called for the city to pass a bill sponsored by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. requiring NYCHA crime statistics to be made public on its website.

In addition, the report criticized the $72 million that NYCHA pays the NYPD each year to protect the complexes.

"NYCHA is the only landlord in the city required to pay for its police force," Squadron said, adding that residents should not have to pay more than their regular taxes to be protected. 

"I am being double taxed," said Torres, adding that the funds NYCHA pays to the NYPD could go toward improving lobby locks and installing security cameras instead.

The report found that about half the residents surveyed did not feel the police presence in their building was sufficient.