And while plans to complete the venture were originally slated for this December, the Councilman announced last week that 45 cameras went online on the bay side of the Ocean Bay Houses, with more to be completed at the Beach 41st Street Houses by mid-October.
“For those who have long-terrorized this community, and think they can shoot up this neighborhood like it is the wild wild west, we say good luck in prison,” Richards proclaimed at a press conference last week. “The police department is watching and they will find you, so we say, smile for the cameras.”
In addition to the security measures to crack down on the growing crime rate - a 1.56 percent increase from 2013 - the funding is also aimed at job-readiness and placement, mental health and conflict resolution initiatives.
“Cameras are one part of the solution,” he said. “If we aren’t ensuring that residents have wrap-around services, all we’re doing is putting a band-aid on the issues.”
Richards announced that the Beach 41st Street Houses will finalize the installation of a new gym floor by the end of the month, replacing the one destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The Redfern Houses also received $150,000 for playground upgrades and a new basketball court.
With a new focus on community programing in an effort to keep kids off the streets, funding will also help extend operation hours at NYCHA community centers to 10 p.m.
“These initiatives will not solve every issue in this community,” he cautioned. “It will take our faith leaders, community organizations and non-profits uniting to stem the tide of violence.”
Geraldine Jones, president of the Ocean Bay Tenants Association, lost her son Brian to an unsolved shooting at the Ocean Bay Houses in August 2011, an incident that generated the initial push for security cameras.
“If we had cameras, maybe my son would have been living today,” Jones said. “We have always been forgotten about. Thank God we’re getting it at least, and the seniors don’t have to get on a bus or walk for miles to get food.”
In response to infrastructure problems due to Hurricane Sandy, State Senator James Sanders criticized NYCHA for taking too long to make repairs, some of which he says are a matter of life and death.
“It has been two years since Sandy and I know government is slow, but I have no idea why NYCHA has not repaired, developed or moved things faster than they have,” Sanders said. “Anything that is an issue of health and life and death, NYCHA should have moved on that first.”
Ocean Side Houses resident Cheri Jackson said she has watched the community deteriorate since her grandfather first moved to the community in 1954.
“The quality of life, we need it to be brought up and not brought down because of the gangs on a portion of what is happening in certain areas,” Jackson said. “Far Rockaway has deteriorated, but there is still a remnant.”
However it is the memory of what once was in the now crime-ridden neighborhood that Jackson says must be focused on to turn around the negative label cast upon the community.
“We want to see Far Rockaway come back, it is not just in the hand of criminals,” she said. “There are competent, educated people who do not want to leave a two-block walk from the coast of America.”