Sam Esposito was behind an effort to install security cameras on the block.
“The idea is that the city sees what we are living with everyday,” said Esposito, a community activist who founded the Ozone Park Residents Block Association. “When we asked the shelter for camera footage of the incident, they told the NYPD to obtain a warrant, which was not the original plan.”
Esposito claims that after the incident, the community and 102nd Precinct requested security camera footage from the shelter.
Originally, the director agreed and said he would review the footage and turn it over, but he later reverted on the agreement and said he would not provide footage from the night of the incident.
“There is security at the shelter and they are not patrolling the building regularly like they’re supposed to, so we’re setting up cameras for the public and city to have 24/7 access to what’s going on,” said Esposito. “Perhaps this will embarrass the city agencies and NYPD because the evidence is there.”
Both cars are owned by Ozone Park residents that recently moved to the neighborhood from out-of-state and live on the same block as the homeless shelter, which is run by Lantern Community Services.
Esposito, who is funding the security camera installation, says four of the cameras are up and running with the remainder expected to be up and running by the end of the week.
“After looking at security footage obtained from the deli across the street, we believe the individual attempted to get inside the shelter at 1:30 a.m. on the morning of the incident, which is after the shelter allows entry of residents into the building,” he said. “This lead him to go ballistic and vandalize the vehicles.”
The cameras will be installed at the deli after an agreement was reached with the owner. Cameras will be facing in both directions on 86th Street and 101st Avenue, in addition to one camera facing directly at the entrance of the shelter.
According to the city’s Department of Social Services (DSS), there is no evidence that a resident of the shelter was involved in the incident.
“The safety of our clients and neighbors is our top priority, and we immediately and fully collaborate with local officials and the NYPD as appropriate to investigate whenever any incident occurs,” said DSS spokesperson Isaac McGinn. “So far, there is no evidence to suggest DHS clients were involved in this incident, and since this shelter opened, there have been no criminal issues to report.
“This larger attempt to smear and gin up fear is shameful and irresponsible,” he added, “and baseless insinuations about the New Yorkers we serve must end.”
The agency also brought up concerns over residents’ privacy with the security cameras in public spaces. According to DSS, there are significant implications regarding violations of privacy, closely protected confidentiality and Social Services Law.
“I don’t see this being any different from other businesses and homes having security cameras on their property,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller. “I believe the community embraces the homeless shelter, but they also want to protect their homes and their neighborhood.”
Esposito hopes to set up a live-stream of the security camera footage that would be available to the public around the clock, as well as installing mobile cameras throughout the community.