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Bed-Stuy Post-Sandy Disaster Plan May Also Reduce Crime, Organizers Say

 A NYCHA resident greeted Community Board 3 Chairman Henry Butler and District Leader Robert Cornegy at a recent public safety meeting.
A NYCHA resident greeted Community Board 3 Chairman Henry Butler and District Leader Robert Cornegy at a recent public safety meeting.
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Facebook/Robert E. Cornegy Jr.

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A pilot program dreamed up to help residents of a Bedford-Stuyvesant housing complex during disasters in the wake of Hurricane Sandy will likely have an added benefit, organizers said: public safety.

The program, set to be installed in the coming months at the New York City Housing Authority's Bedford-Stuyvesant Rehab complex on Willoughby Avenue between Throop Avenue and Marcus Garvey Boulevard, will use cameras to monitor exits as well as keep a list of residents in the building in the event of an evacuation during a fire or flood.

The cameras, paid for with tenant participation activity funds, will be remotely monitored by local block-watchers trained to recognize and report crimes to the police, organizers said.

"It allows the residents to take accountability for what's going on in their immediate area," said District Leader Robert Cornegy, a City Council candidate and one of the program's organizers. "What it does is let them monitor what goes on in their community."

All data will be stored on a remote server, where it can be easily downloaded and given to police.

The plan was initially thought up after Hurricane Sandy, Cornegy said. Residents of NYCHA developments like the Red Hook Houses were stranded for more than two weeks without electricity, heat or hot water.

"We see that it's necessary," Cornegy said. "During Sandy, the developments were most disproportionately affected."

Once organizers began planning the program's implementation, Cornegy said they started to realize the public safety benefit.

The 84-unit Bedford-Stuyvesant Rehab is located in a part of Bed-Stuy more prone to violence, which made it the perfect choice for a pilot, Cornegy said. On Saturday, just two blocks away at Marcus Garvey and Pulaski Street, an unknown person fired off a shot at a plainclothes sergeant and a police officer in pursuit of a group of shooting suspects, according to the NYPD.

"The north side of Bed-Stuy has been disproportionately violent," Cornegy said. "And it's such a small development that we could manage the oversight for it as we figure out how this is going to go."

Residents of the six-story development will be able to access the cameras from communal computer stations located within the building. Organizers hope the new technology will help residents become more engaged in their own community, and more aware of their surroundings.

"We're supposed to use some vision and ingenuity in looking at the future," Cornegy said, "and the technology offered us an opportunity to do that."