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New eyes on Middletown Plaza

Bronx Times

Middletown Plaza’s seniors are finally feeling picture perfect.

After nearly two years of delays, seven security cameras were installed last month at the Middletown Road New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) senior living complex.

Crime is not a huge problem in the Pelham Bay building, but the Plaza’s staff does not want to take any chances.

“We want to be able to catch anyone who breaks in here, and make our tenants feel comfortable,” said Reverend Marilyn Oliver, president of the Middletown Plaza Tenants Association.

The cameras were funded by a $175,000 allocation in the city’s 2011 budget and lobbied for by Councilman James Vacca, who has made putting security cameras in all NYCHA housing a priority.

But it took two years for the allocated money to be put to use, a result of the NYCHA’s frustratingly slow bureaucratic churn, Vacca said.

“It is unfathomable how you can give the city money and it takes two to three years to spend,” Vacca said. “But in this case we managed to move it along. A two-year turnaround is pretty quick considering the pace the bureaucracy often moves.”

For the seniors, the cameras could not come soon enough. One apartment was broken into as recently as August 28, Oliver said. Seniors had also complained about feeling unsafe sitting down in the home’s backyard courtyard, she said.

The new cameras at Middletown Plaza were installed in the lobby, outside the front entrance, in the parking lot and in both elevators. The building’s staff will be able to monitor the cameras during the day and police can review them in case of an incident.

“The cameras are of a preventable nature,” Vacca said. “They send a signal here to those who want to do something that they shouldn’t that they better not, that we will catch and apprehend those that do.”

The councilman has also allocated $4.6 million for security cameras for the Pelham Parkway Houses and the Throggs Neck Houses, both public projects that house the elderly. Those cameras are still in the pipeline, Vacca said. An original timeframe called for installations starting in early 2013, but now Vacca expects those homes to be outfitted with the cameras starting in 2014.

Along with the cameras, Middletown Plaza residents will be also receive new key fobs in the coming weeks that can track bonafide residents entering the building and at what time they walk in.

The added security should help keep some of the borough’s most vulnerable safe and sound.

“We’re definitely targets, especially during the day when we go shopping and they know we’ve got money in our bags,” Oliver said. “We’re considered more frail. We need as much help as we can get.”

Ben Kochman can be reach via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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