In a bid to boost security at public housing complexes, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning suggested fingerprinting residents so they can access their homes.
“What we really should have is fingerprinting to get in. And of course there’s an allegation that some of these apartments aren’t occupied by the people who originally have the lease,” said Mr. Bloomberg during his weekly radio sit-down with WOR’s John Gambling.
The mayor noted that, while New York City Housing Authority building house about five percent of the city’s population, they account for about 20 percent of city crime.
“We’ve just gotta find some ways to keep bringing crime down there,” he said, arguing that most people who live in the buildings want more police protection.
“If you have a stranger walking in the halls of your apartment building, don’t you want somebody to stop and say, ‘Who are you? Why’re you here?’ Because the locks on these doors, with so many people coming and going, you really can’t,” he said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal came as he was responding to a federal judge reportedly preparing to try a case brought by NYCHA residents against so-called “vertical patrols” by police in the buildings.
“If you live in NYCHA housing, you should be really worried about this judge because if we stop these vertical patrols, crime can just get totally out-of-hand,” he said.
The fingerprinting idea left some reeling, including two mayoral candidates who simultaneously released statements condemning the comment.
“Disrespectful. Disgraceful. No other words apply,” former Comptroller Bill Thompson said in a statement. “Just like stop and frisk, this is another direct act of treating minorities like criminals. Mayor Bloomberg wants to make New Yorkers feel like prisoners in their own homes. When I’m mayor, I’ll keep NYCHA residents safe without taking away their dignity. I’ll increase police presence and install security cameras that should have been installed years ago to safeguard residents.”
“The Mayor’s comments that New Yorkers who enter public housing should be fingerprinted is outrageous and insulting and shows just how out of touch this administration has become,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio piled on. “Once again, Mayor Bloomberg has resorted to presuming innocent people are guilty simply because they happen to live in certain areas, and in doing so he is stigmatizing entire communities.”
During his radio show today, Mr. Bloomberg also announced this morning that the city plans to move forward today with a controversial plan to open NYCHA land for private housing development to raise extra money for repairs.
“We have to come up with some revenue-generating mechanism,” he said. “Either we walk away from our public housing, or we find some ways to make it better … We don’t have a printing press. We’ve gotta find some rational ways to do it.”
Update (11:20 a.m.):
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also slammed the fingerprinting idea.
“It’s a completely ludicrous and outrageous notion that NYCHA residents and their guests should have to be fingerprinted to gain access to their own homes and to visit family and friends,” she said in a statement. “Rather than go after law abiding citizens who live in public housing, the City needs to provide residents with the security systems they have been promised for years.”
Mr. Bloomberg’s spokesman, Marc La Vorgna, defended the mayor’s remarks, and noted that fingerprinting is not part of the city’s current plan.
“All security is moving towards biometrics – even the next iPhone will have fingerprint security. Every day the Mayor logs into his computer by placing his finger on the keyboard to login. Why wouldn’t we want to think about providing the highest level of security possible for NYCHA residents?” he asked via email. “You place the strongest security measures on things of most value – what is more valuable than their homes?”
“We have regular key locks on most NYCHA buildings, unfortunately they are destroyed regularly because criminals want access to the buildings. The current plan is to install electronic key pads or key card access to make sure only people who live there have access and NYCHA residence can go to sleep at night and not have drug dealers creeping around their hallways,” he said.