NYCHA: WHERE CROOKS CAN WALK RIGHT IN
Hundreds of doors left wide open, even in projects where police have tried to stem spikes in crime
Hundreds of NYCHA apartment buildings are vulnerable to unwanted intruders due to door locks that are tampered with or simply broken, a report released Friday by city Controller Scott Stringer found.
Stringer’s investigators visited 299 of the New York City Housing Authority’s 320 developments and found at least one disabled door at 195 complexs spread throughout all five boroughs.
Some of those developments have experienced significant spikes in crime this year. One of them is on a list of 15 high-crime projects targeted and assigned extra cops by the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio.
During their visits across the city last summer, Stringer’s team checked out 4,551 doors. With nearly one of every four — 1,023 entrance, side or rear doors — they found an alarming lack of security that would allow anyone to come or go.
Doors were propped open with ropes or chains. Locks were broken or otherwise damaged. NYCHA’s doors rely on powerful magnets instead of traditional door locks, and investigators found a pattern of tampering. Doors didn’t latch properly and could be easily pushed open. The door magnets, in some cases, were either removed or simply no longer functioned.
At some of these developments with lax security, crime has been on the rise.
At Johnson Houses in East Harlem investigators found 15 of 17 front doors open and 11 of 14 rear exits unlocked during a July visit. Johnson has experienced a 77.8% increase in crime this year through Oct. 7 with the number of major crimes rising from 18 to 32. That includes a doubling of robberies from four to nine, according to NYPD statistics.
King Towers in Harlem, where probers found all 10 front doors wide open in July, has had a 25% spike in crime so far this year, including a jump in the number of assaults from 15 to 20 and a doubling of grand larcenies from five to 10, police records show.
Investigators even found 14 of 25 front doors open at Patterson Houses in the Bronx, one of the 15 developments targeted by the NYPD in an anticrime initiative with extra cops and security lights known as the Mayor’s Action Plan. Since 2014, that plan has steered $140 million to the specific developments and overall crime has dropped by 11% there.
“All New Yorkers should feel safe in their own home, but hundreds of broken latches, busted locks, and doors held open by chains and rope leave NYCHA families without that basic sense of security,” said Stringer. “Unsecured doors are unacceptable. NYCHA must promptly secure, repair and replace broken doors.”
On Friday a Daily News reporter discovered several
doors propped open at King Towers — one with a wooden block, another tied back with plastic bags, and another jammed open with religious pamphlets titled “Our Daily Bread.” Tenants said they were forced to jury-rig the doors open because they didn’t have enough keys or the intercom doesn’t function.
“What they need to do is fix the intercom,” said Herbert Smith Jr., 63, who has lived in the same Kings Tower building since he was 10. “They need somewhere to get in, so they put the block there. And they jam it.”
Raymond Cash, 66, said the open door is an invitation to drug users who cluster in the lobby.
“They use the lobby like a living room,” he said. “There’s dust heads in here. A lot of people don’t feel safe.”
At the Rangel Houses in Washington Heights, a door wouldn’t close after someone had tried to jam objects into it and it no longer fit into the frame. Another door was propped open by a trash can.
““The doors are always open, the elevators are always broken. I’m tired of this,” said a tenant who didn’t want to be named. “It’s always someone who lets someone in.”
In a series of letters to NYCHA’s interim Chairman Stanley Brezenoff, Deputy Controller Marjorie Landa warned that the authority could be in violation of city rules requiring landlords to ensure their entry doors are secure.
“From our daily work reviewing and repairing doors, we know that door damage has a variety of causes, from wear and tear to tampering,” NYCHA spokeswoman Jasmine Blake said. “We will continue to inspect and repair doors urgently, and ask for our residents’ help in vigilantly reporting door damage whenever they see it.”
At 61 developments, Stringer’s team found more than half the doors were unsecure, while nearly half of all entrance doors — 1,651 of 3,538 — had no working security cameras.
During a July 10 visit to the Rangel Houses in Washington Heights, they found all nine entrance doors were open. None of the Rangel buildings had security cameras at their entrances.
Overall Manhattan was particularly bad, with more than half the doors left unsecured in 32 developments. But the problem plagues the outer boroughs, too.
At the Albany Houses in Brooklyn, an August trip found five of nine front doors open and cameras at only two of the doors. There’s been a 66.7% spike in crime there so far this year. And at Betances Houses in the Bronx, all six front doors were open during a July visit. So far this year there’s been a 34.8% jump in crime there, including the number of felony assaults nearly doubling from eight to 15, according to NYPD statstics.
Anyone can just stroll into the main entrance (above) to the Rangel Houses in Washington Heights Friday afternoon. Another door at the same site (top inset) is propped open, as are doors at King Towers (right and opposite page) in Harlem.