Stabbings illustrate dangers in public housing
The trends of crime and bureaucratic dysfunction converged on Sunday with the horrific stabbings of two small children on an elevator in the Boulevard Houses of East New York.
P.J. Avitto, 6, was killed, and Mikayla Capers, 7, was left struggling for her life. The two were heading out of the building on an excursion to buy ice cream.
While crime rates have hit record lows in most parts of the city over the last five years, they have risen by more than 30 percent in the housing developments.
Meanwhile, the New York City Housing Authority not long ago found itself in such disarray that its 400,000-plus residents were forced to wait an average of 282 days just to get a leaky toilet fixed.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said Monday that the housing authority had received money for security cameras at Boulevard Houses but failed to install them.
"It fell into the NYCHA black hole," Adams noted.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has spent years pointing to the housing authority's problems. Months ago, he promised a "total reset" to straighten out its maintenance mess.
We hope he'll move even faster to reform the agency now that New Yorkers are more focused on the problems within the agency's 334 developments and 2,563 buildings.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton faces a trickier task.
He is beefing up Operation Impact in the 79th Precinct, where Boulevard Houses happens to be. And he's flooding the zone with rookies, under the tutelage of veteran cops and local leaders like civic association officials and clergy.
The idea is to make streets -- and housing developments in particular -- safer using firmness, fairness, common sense and basic human respect.
This is where former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his then-police commissioner, Ray Kelly, ran aground last year. Their stop-and-frisk program and their tactics in the housing projects caused an ugly backlash that the NYPD is still struggling to overcome.
Bratton must make sure his troops are perceived as fair and ultimately indispensable in the areas they police.
The city and NYPD must get it right this time.