On the lookout

How cameras monitor the Marble Hill Houses


A computer screen sits on top of a black cabinet structure referred to as security operations controls in a room at the Marble Hill Houses management office. The rest of the office bustles with conversations between housing managers and the sound of doors swinging shut as people come and go, but there is only room for one person between the security controls and the wall of the room it is in. A trained manager can toggle between each security camera and move back and forth between dates and times.

After roughly three years of planning, the installation of 53 security cameras in all 11 of the Marble Hill Houses ended in December 2013, according to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). That came just a few months before Councilman Ritchie Torres said on April 28 that he will push for $520 to install security cameras in all 334 NYCHA developments.

Councilmen Fernando Cabrera, Ydanis Rodriguez and Miguel Martinez allocated varying levels of funding for cameras at the Marble Hill Houses, which they all represent.

Residents have speculated that houses received different numbers of cameras depending on how much money their councilman allocated. But the NYCHA press office declined to say how many cameras are in each building.

How the cameras work

Security cameras on the outside of the buildings have a visual range of about 10 feet. Inside building four, cameras are installed in the lobby, in elevators and outside of the door leading to the roof of the building. 

“We interact with the NYPD on a regular basis. We hold videos for seven years if there is a crime and they’re stored in Long Island City in safes,” said Kevin Hurley, coordinator of closed circuit television (CCTV) for all of NYCHA.

But having active cameras does not mean they are monitored in real time. According to Mr. Hurley, a Marble Hill manager checks the cameras at the security center each morning to make sure they are functioning, but no one is stationed there to watch them consistently. Instead of stopping crimes in their tracks, the cameras are intended to be a deterrent.

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