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After slew of vandalism, building gets Clean Halls

Residents of Janel Towers, a large Westchester Square apartment complex, are excited to learn that they may soon have cleaner halls.

The building, which is at 801 Neill Avenue, has just been enrolled in the Clean Halls program. It’s a city initiative that will allow 49th Precinct police officers to do periodic walkthroughs of the building’s lobby and hallways.

The program should enhance security and cut down on vandalism and some other problems the tenants have been experiencing for quite some time.

“Hopefully this will help us as far as security goes, because there’s definitely been problems in the parking lot with people breaking into cars, and there’s drug use outside,” said Barry Soltz, legal coordinator and organizer for the Janel Towers Tenants Association.

“I think everybody agrees it’s a positive step,” he added, “but the tenants also have to be aware that in a sense, we have to police ourselves. If we see something going on that seems suspicious we need to call 911.”

A recent brutal rape in the borough also has residents more concerned than in the past, and worried about attackers.

Soltz said that the building has had vandalism in its hallways, but also — even more serious — theft from automobiles belonging to the tenants. Recently, a tenant came out to his BMW to find that someone removed all four wheels and literally left the car on cinder blocks.

“This will hopefully deter a lot of the crime, and make our residents feel safer,” said Soltz.

The process of getting Janel Towers into the Clean Halls program was led by Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who helped the tenants get a meeting with the 49th Precinct. A Vacca staffer called it “a good victory” for the Councilman’s staff and tenants of the Towers.

“This authorizes the police, when manpower permits, to go anywhere in the building, into the public areas of the hallway, and check around,” said Vacca.

The Clean Halls program also involved putting new signs all over the lobby that read: “Trespassers will be arrested.”

“I’m an original tenant here, perfectly happy with everything,” said Blossom Marguiles, who said she has always felt safe inside the building.

Vacca cautioned: “I don’t want tenants to feel like they’re going to see police there constantly. They won’t. This is just another useful tool in an effort to increase tenant safety.”

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