Upgrade public housing security with new, digital keys. This idea was greeted with trepidation, delays and technical difficulties. Which is a decent summary of the reception to Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to save NYCHA itself.
It seems like a pretty good idea: a key system that addresses security concerns at public housing developments and makes life easier for residents.
Instead of standard metal keys for exterior entrances, each resident would receive a small, lightweight electronic nub, smaller than a key ring, which, when tapped against a reader, would open the door. Thirty-two developments have the system, first proposed in 2010.
These key fobs, if lost, can't be duplicated. If stolen, they can be turned off. The overall system, known as "layered access," connects intercoms to residents' phones, enabling them to buzz people in remotely. Connection to cameras enhances security.
Unfortunately, things haven't gone exactly as planned.
The long road to broken
Six years ago, a NYCHA task force, including residents, recommended new cameras and the layered access system to update security in housing developments.
But the rollout dragged on, due to bureaucratic footslogging but also a lack of money.
At Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn, where the system was installed in 2014, the keys still present problems, partially due to confusion among residents, but also faulty equipment. At a forum Monday night, residents spoke of broken intercoms and fobs that don't open the door, causing some people to force the lock rather than wait for management.
Residents also expressed their fears that they were being tracked when they entered and exited. NYCHA says that information is deleted after three to four weeks and is only used in emergencies.
It is a concrete example of dissatisfaction residents felt with their living situations, in addition to disrespectful management, bad elevators, a lack of police. At a forum with residents at Wyckoff Monday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio wearily acknowledged NYCHA's problems. He challenged agency administrators to have all residents' phones connected to the intercom system in 30 days.
But de Blasio wasn't there to speak just about present conditions. He was pitching his plan to bring NYCHA into the future — which, like the key fobs, is proving more difficult than anticipated.