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Alfred E. Smith Houses Complete CCTV System After Delays

By Serena Solomon | April 24, 2013 5:35pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — After several years of operating with an incomplete closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system, the Lower East Side's Alfred E. Smith Houses now has security cameras  inside each building, elected officials and New York City Housing Authority announced Wednesday.

About 80 new cameras have been installed and are operating at Smith Houses, a 12 building public housing project in the shadow of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The $679,000 in city council funding helped bring the number of buildings with security cameras from five to 12, but some residents remain skeptical that an increase in surveillance will reduce crime.

"They couldn't come at a better time," said Axia Torres, the president of the Smith Houses Residents Association. "Now with the cameras… anyone that tries to do something — we got them."

"Be on notice you are on camera," she added, calling the additional CCTV installation a "true process of involvement" from NYCHA, the city council and the residents association. 

Torres said the cameras would make anyone think twice before committing a crime in the area and would help weed out "anti-community" behavior from residents such as dumping rubbish.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin secured a large part of the funding from the city council to finish the CCTV camera system after a five-year delay.

"Finally, the cameras are completed," she said at a press conference Wednesday. "When you look at these beautiful grounds we need to make sure we protect our public housing."

Chin has allocated a total of $800,000 that will help see security cameras rollout to other housing developments on the Lower East Side such as Seward Park, Rutgers and LaGuardia by the end of the year.

NYCHA Chairman John Rhea said the push for CCTV systems in public housing will be extended to 85 complexes around the city by the end of the year totally 8,000 cameras with a $45 million investment.

In September 2012, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, along with other elected officials, released a report blasting cash-strapped NYCHA for lapsed security in its housing developments including the scarcity of camera systems as well as broken intercoms and lobby locks.

Connie Al Modovar, a Smith Houses resident of 50 years, remained skeptical.

"They pee in the hallway, break locks on the door," she said. "We will have to see if they can catch any of that."