At press time Wednesday, June 11, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer joined public housing residents, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) chair Shola Olatoye, and City Council member Inez Barron to announce the start of a long-overdue security camera installation at Boulevard Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, and five other developments around the city, in an effort by the administration to engage and be more responsive to the needs of public housing residents.
Previously, de Blasio had blamed the city for the lack of security cameras in housing project buildings, calling the delay “unacceptable bureaucracy.” This prolonged issue has received greater attention in the wake of the fatal stabbing of 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto and critical injuring of 7-year-old Mikayla Caper of the Boulevard Houses, who were attacked while on their way to get ice cream Sunday, June 1.
The suspect, who investigators believe might also be responsible for the stabbing of 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland just days earlier, has been identified as 27-year-old parolee Daniel St. Hubert. He was found in Ozone Park, Queens, after his cell phone was tracked. However, investigators say their investigation was impeded because there was no camera in the elevator of the building, where the stabbings occurred.
De Blasio criticized ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not cracking down on the issue long before young Prince’s life was stolen. He also admitted that even his own administration could have done more to prevent the tragedy. “The previous dynamic was unacceptable, and we didn’t change it quickly enough,” the mayor said during a press conference. “I think everyone up and down the food chain knows that’s unacceptable to me.”
Fewer than half of the buildings in public housing have surveillance cameras in the lobbies and elevators. The New York City Housing Authority had $27 million to install security cameras in 49 housing projects, including the Boulevard Houses, but the mayor said they were “sitting on the money” for various reasons. He ordered the NYCHA to swiftly add the security enhancements to the 49 housing projects. He promised that all security additions would be implemented before the end of 2014.
“We’re committed to executing the mayor’s plan to accelerate approvals, and we will also work to expedite much-needed security upgrades, meeting newly announced timelines,” said a spokesperson for the NYCHA in a statement Tuesday.
The next step was to forward the plans to New York City Controller Scott Springer. “I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for prioritizing the expansion of cameras at NYCHA housing throughout the five boroughs,” said Stringer. “My office worked hand-in-hand with the administration to ensure that this process moved forward without further delay. The more than 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home deserve to feel safe. This is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to continuing to work with the mayor, my colleagues in government and NYCHA residents to improve public safety and quality of life in their communities.”