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NYCHA Tenants Robbed After Leaving Doors Open for Mandatory Construction

By Janet Upadhye | May 30, 2014 6:45am
 Jacqueline Francis, 68, sits by her front door during renovations to her apartment to ensure she does not get burglarized again.
Jacqueline Francis, 68, sits by her front door during renovations to her apartment to ensure she does not get burglarized again.
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DNAinfo.com/Janet Upadhye

FORT GREENE — Two apartments left unlocked to accommodate mandatory building renovations at a New York City Housing Authority complex were burglarized last week — including one where the victim was at home, police said.

Police at the 88th Precinct are investigating the incidents, which took place May 20 in the Ingersoll Houses at 88 St. Edwards St.

In the wake of the burglaries, the housing authority ordered the contractor to lock stairwells, hallways and apartment doors if work was not being done and ensure that workers had their IDs in full view.

The agency also said that it would tell residents to be vigilant during the two weeks of work from May 13-29. Construction was still going on as of Thursday.

"We will notify all residents affected by this project that they should not open their doors or allow access into their apartment to anyone without a photo ID," a NYCHA spokeswoman said.

The housing authority issued a notice telling residents that they had to provide "daily access" to construction workers for the electric, plumbing, kitchen and closet upgrades.

But for some that meant they had to keep their doors unlocked while no one was home, according to residents.

In one instance, Jacqueline Francis, 68, had her a computer stolen along with a decade of work stored on the hard drive — despite the fact that she was home at the time.

"The construction workers were just leaving my apartment and I thought I was alone when I heard my front door click," said the retired teacher.

When she went to check on the noise, she saw a man run out with her laptop just as another man pushed her from behind to get out the front door.

"I am fearful now," said Francis. "I can’t sleep well at night and any sound sounds like the door click."

It was not clear who carried out the burglaries, but Francis said that it was not the men who were working inside her apartment.

Francis said she was reimbursed $1,000 for her stolen computer by building contractors V.C. Vitanza Sons, Inc. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Another tenant, a 30-year-old man whose name was not released, had a computer and gaming console swiped from his apartment, according to police. He was not home at the time of the robbery.

A spokeswoman for NYCHA said the agency has increased security at the building in the wake of the robberies.

“We understand that residents are concerned about allowing access to their apartments in light of the unfortunate robbery incidents reported at Ingersoll Houses, which is currently undergoing renovation work," she said. "To protect our residents, we have reached out to our contractor to make sure every effort is made to secure the residents and their homes during the ongoing renovations."

But Francis, who has spent the last several days guarding her front door herself, said she hasn't seen any changes to security in her building.

"I have to sit right here with my door open all day," she said. "I have all my stuff in a bag on my back, I just feel like I have to be on guard now."

Her nephew Jerome Simmons still fears for the safety of the residents.

"They are being asked to leave their doors unlocked for contractors who are coming and going all day long without I.D.," he said. "We need to be doing a better job at security."