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Ridgites seek spy cameras on Fifth Avenue

Eye in the sky: Ridge residents say their neighborhood needs a police security camera like this one at Myrtle Avenue and Washington Park in Forth Greene.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Bay Ridge leaders say new police cameras will digitally capture crimes as they take place — if the NYPD would just install them.

Community Board 10 is calling for at least one of the lamppost-mounted surveillance tools to go up on the drag of Fifth Avenue between 69th and 75th streets, and both state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) have allocated funding for at least five of the video recorders to go up in the 68th Precinct, but the police department continues to detain the crime-busting camcorders — and no one knows when they will arrive.

CB10 district manager Josephine Beckmann said that the delayed installation is part of a citywide hold-up that extends as far as the Rockaways, despite the police department having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding intended to bring security cameras to crime-afflicted areas. Beckmann said that the NYPD’s camera shyness made no sense since the department has already received the necessary financing.

“If the council member and the state senator have allocated money for the district, then cameras should come to the district,” said Beckmann.

Members of the board, sick of the brazen drug trade on the commercial corridor, argued that the security cameras would let cops keep a permanent eye on the avenue to pick out offenders.

“We would know who has the drugs if we had the cameras,” said June Johnson, who recalled watching several young men unabashedly crushing and snorting pills in public. “Everybody knows about it, but what’s being done?”

Board member Sandy Vallas — whose real estate agency sits just off Fifth Avenue, and is a member of the local business improvement district — said new enforcement measures are necessary to preserve the neighborhood as a low-crime haven for the middle-class.

“I want to keep Bay Ridge the way it is — a good safe neighborhood — but what I’m seeing is troubling,” said Vallas.

Another Fifth Avenue merchant — who refused to give her name out of fear of violent reprisals from the thuggish dealers — echoed Vallas’s sentiments

“It’s getting to be a scary place. These kids have no fear, and people are shaking,” the business owner said. “We need to break this gang, or whatever it is, up.”

Residents of the blocks just off Fifth Avenue — particularly on 72nd and 73rd streets — have long complained of flagrant drug-dealing on their streets and of police inaction. The area marked for surveillance is home to a growing Arabic community, some of whom backed efforts to form a civilian patrol to ward off the dealers.

CB10 voted at its April 15 meeting to put pressure on the NYPD by forming a subcommittee to conference with the 68th Precinct and advocate for cameras on Fifth Avenue and other hot spots of seedy activity.

An aide to Gentile confirmed that the pol had given New York’s Finest money for the cameras and that he is pushing for them to be installed along the corridor, but had gotten no response from the police.

Golden spokesman John Quaglione didn’t have an official date either, but promised that fed-up Ridgites won’t have to wait much longer.

“We are very close to an official announcement on the security cameras,” said Quaglione.

A police spokeswoman told this paper that the department only got the necessary permit to install the cameras from the mayor’s office on April 12, and that it would be looking for a location on Fifth Avenue in the coming months. But she pointed out that the NYPD would only install a surveillance device if it could find a firm base — like a lamppost — to mount one on that also provided an uninterrupted view down the thoroughfare. And even if it discovers such a spot, she said she could not give a time frame for when the camcorder would go in — despite top cop Ray Kelly’s call for more video oversight in the aftermath of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.

“All I can say is we will be working as quickly impossible to get the cameras installed,” the source said.

In the meantime, CB10 advises community members to immediately phone 911 when they witness illicit activity.

“When you see these things, you have to report it,” said Fran Vella-Marrone, chair of the panel’s Police and Public Safety Committee.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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