They were a long time in coming.
So when the New York City Housing Authority began installing security cameras at the crime-ridden Hammel Houses in Rockaway Beach on April 4, Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and his predecessor, state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), made sure to be on hand.
The cameras, originally funded by Sanders with Council discretionary funds but delayed for years when NYCHA under former Mayor Bloomberg refused to spend the money, are the start of what Richards and housing officials hope will be a growing trend under Mayor de Blasio and new agency Chairwoman Shola Olatoye.
It’s a start, Richards said on Monday
“We have had some very fruitful talks with the administration and NYCHA,” the Councilman said at an unrelated event in Springfield Gardens.
Richards and Sanders in statements issued after the Hammel unveiling said the cameras are invaluable tools for ensuring public safety and residents’ peace of mind.
“Unfortunately, the New York City Housing Authority lacks the funding to install cameras at all of its developments and can only do so where it has received discretionary funding from elected officials,” NYCHA said in a statement emailed to the Chronicle on Tuesday.
Richards himself has allocated nearly $2 million for cameras at the Beach 41st Houses and the Ocean Bay Apartments, both in the Rockaways.
“We expect to have them installed by the end of the year,” he said.
It wasn’t always that way.
Prior to 2003, NYCHA received federal anticrime grants for cameras and installation, but the money was eliminated.
For now the agency depends on local and state politicians setting aside money, though it is not known if that will change later this month when Mayor de Blasio unveils his first executive budget proposal.
NYCHA’s statement said aside from Hammel, cameras in the last fiscal year have been installed or started being installed at the James Bland and Latimer Gardens housing projects in Flushing; the Conlon Lihfe Tower in Jamaica, and in Woodside.
Projects this year, aside from the two funded by Richards, include Baisley Park in Jamaica and further work at Latimer Gardens.
NYCHA said since the start of its surveillance program in 1997, it has installed 10,810 security surveillance cameras at 1,061 buildings in 196 developments.
John Rhea, whom Olatoye replaced, served as chairman for nearly four years under Bloomberg.
Among the allegations against Rhea and his management team in a 2012 series of articles in the Daily News was that NYCHA had $45 million allocated to it by various government entities for security cameras at high-crime housing projects, but simply did not spend it.
Rhea, who resigned last December rather than be replaced as de Blasio vowed he would be, also supposedly held onto about $1 billion in federal housing money earmarked for upkeep and repairs.
The result was accumulation of a reported 420,000 backlogged repair requests in public housing projects throughout the city.
De Blasio in February felt the need to reallocate $52.5 million in NYCHA funds earmarked for the NYPD to the repair budget line item.