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Hasidic Residents Blame Poor Security at NYCHA Building for Shooting

By Meredith Hoffman | November 5, 2013 8:49am
 Hasidic residents earlier this year protested the burning of mezuzahs at the Taylor-Wythe Houses.
Hasidic residents earlier this year protested the burning of mezuzahs at the Taylor-Wythe Houses.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

WILLIAMSBURG — The shooting of a 25-year-old Hasidic man at a South Williamsburg public housing complex Friday has prompted outrage from residents who say the city has failed to provide security in the crime-ridden area.

A lack of overnight police and of adequate security cameras have helped contribute to  a crime spike at the Taylor-Wythe Houses housing development, residents said, claiming that the city had been putting off installing cameras the past few years.

"We were allocated cameras three years ago and NYCHA is just putting them in now," said Andrew Gross, President of the Taylor-Wythe Tenants' Association. "NYCHA is not checking tenants who come into and out of the building...and there's no policeman on the overnight shift."

Gross said that the shooting Friday — in which a Hasidic man was shot in the right hand and left leg during an attempted robbery — was the latest in a string of incidents at the complex. The crimes include mezuzah burnings earlier this year and a shooting last fall at Independence Towers, another public housing complex by the Taylor-Wythe Houses.

Gross and other residents said they had requested increased security but that NYCHA and the NYPD had not responded to their demands. 

"It's like we have no control," resident Marcos Masri said of the situation.

Meanwhile, Hasidic community leader Gary Schlesinger criticized local politicians, who held a press conference after Friday's shooting but, Schlesinger said, had not intervened at the complex.

"These press conferences don't help anything. They're only coming here after there's a shooting," said Schlesinger. "People here don't feel safe anymore."

The NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but a spokeswoman for NYCHA said the agency was working to add more cameras to the buildings with the help of Council Member Stephen Levin.

"NYCHA has worked closely with the NYPD, resident leaders and Levin, who allocated the necessary funding, to ensure the development of a state of the art and cost effective security system," the spokeswoman said, noting that the installation "takes time and includes the identification and positioning of enhanced security cameras in effective building locations."

The new cameras should be in place by the end of this year, she said.

A spokesman for Levin said he had dedicated $300,000 to security cameras at the Taylor-Wythe Houses and $400,000 for cameras at Independence Towers.

"We agree: It is unacceptable that NYCHA has taken so long to finish the installation of security upgrades," Levin spokesman Matthew Ojala said, "and Council Member Levin has pushed repeatedly for an expedited timetable.”