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Gurley stair light was dim, not out

In the dark. NYCHA needs $1 billion in lighting upgrades, official says

A NYCHA housing complex.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The public housing stairwell where a rookie NYPD officer shot Akai Gurley wasn't pitch-black, city officials said Monday.

The chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority, Shola Olatoye, testified at a City Council hearing Tuesday that the day after Gurley, 28, was shot by Officer Peter Liang, workers said the lighting was “diminished” but not out.

Liang shot Gurley on Nov. 20 while the rookie officer patrolled the stairwell in Brownsville's Pink Houses.

Olatoye testified a NYCHA employee at Pink Houses told an investigator that when she left for the day -- hours before the shooting-- there were no lights on the eighth floor where Gurley was killed.

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The following day, inspectors found a fluorescent bulb in the stairwell was “dimly lit,” but not out, and the light was repaired soon after.

“The image of a dimly lit stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses tells a larger story,” said Council member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the committee on public housing. “Conditions are getting worse, and getting worse faster and endanger the lives of NYCHA residents.”

Since the shooting, 143 light fixtures have been repaired at Pink Houses, Olatoye said.

Olatoye said there are 100,000 open work orders for repairs across NYCHA, and less than 1 percent of those are for lighting issues.

During the hearing, NYCHA disrepair was blamed on continued cuts in funding to public housing. Olatoye said the loss of $1.6 billion in funding since 2001 “forces NYCHA to continue to make tough decisions on how our limited resources are used.”

Ray Ribeiro, executive vice president for capital projects, said NYCHA would need $425 million to upgrade and repair all interior lighting across the system, and another $500 million for outdoor lights.

Torres said recent protests, and the rallying cry that “Black Lives Matter,” forces the city to examine their “failures” of “black and brown lives,” and that 90 percent of NYCHA residents are black and Latino.

Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $101 million for security enhancements at 15 NYCHA developments where violent crime is most prevalent. The new lighting, cameras and doors will be funded by a BNP Paribas settlement for violating U.S. sanctions, according to the D.A.’s office.

Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged $210 million earlier this year to make NYCHA developments safer with more lighting.

 
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