“Smile! You’re on ‘Candid Camera!’”
That phrase, known to television watchers of a certain age, takes on a whole new meaning now, thanks to the efforts of City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who recently had a surveillance camera installed to help watch a municipal parking lot, following the mugging of a popular deli owner in January.
“There’s been a rising crime rate throughout New York City and Astoria is no exception,” Vallone said in a telephone interview.
He spoke specifically about the “vicious robbery on someone beloved in our community,” referring to Rosario DiMarco, whose delicatessen has been in the area for the past 25 years, 11 of them at its current location at 22-55 31 St.
“He was attacked underneath a camera in the lot,” Vallone said. “The camera had not been functioning for years. No one in the NYPD or Department of Transportation knew who owned the camera.”
The DOT responded to the situation by removing the camera altogether, a move Vallone termed “absurd.”
Working with the NYPD, Vallone had a new camera installed several days ago on the building in which his office is located and that overlooks the lot, located at Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue.
“People are happy about it,” Vallone said.
Vallone indicated that the lot is isolated but called it “relatively safe,” adding that it is often a place where the “homeless congregate and can be intimidating.”
The need for the camera, Vallone said, is the result of “less police who can’t be everywhere. We need to supplement the dwindling police force.It’s impossible to know how many crimes would not happen” as a result of the camera’s installation. “I hope it works.”
The new camera was provided by the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit. While the camera is not easily visible from the lot and will be moved periodically to try to ensure its effectiveness, Vallone approached its placement with a sense of humor.
“I try to put humor into most things I do,” he said. In this case, it meant placing a large sign in the lot which reads, “Council Member Vallone says smile. You’re on council camera!” a paean to the 1950s television show, which was a precursor to many of today’s reality programs that catch unsuspecting passersby off-guard.
But DiMarco, who says he has been undergoing physical rehabilitation twice a week since January and is now 75 to 80 percent recovered from his injuries, is not laughing.
“The camera is a great idea,” he said. “But what happens to the camera when Vallone pulls out of there? I would like to see the DOT put one back in the parking lot. The city has money to spend all over the place. Queens is an outer borough. They don’t treat us like Manhattan.”