Long Island City housing complex plagued by shootings

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Astoria Houses was been plagued by an increase in gun violence during the month of October.THE COURIER/Photo by Nargas Karimi
Astoria Houses was been plagued by an increase in gun violence during the month of October.

Constant fear caused by frequent shootings has left the residents of Astoria Houses in a frenzy.

The housing development, located at 4-20 Astoria Boulevard in Long Island City, has been plagued by gun violence for years, according to the people who call the houses home.

“I hear the shootings every time and it’s routine,” said Millie Santana, a resident of Astoria Houses. “It happens all the time.”

Recently, the frequency of the shootings has escalated to an alarming rate.

According to police, during the month of October, there were five incidents of gun violence at Astoria Houses – three on the 21, one on the 22 and one on the 24.

“It has been very devastating,” said Claudia Coger, the president of the Astoria Houses tenant’s association. “There have been gun incidents sporadically, and it has been devastating and frightening for the community. People have become homebodies. But this has also brought a community-wide awakening that we have to do more to keep one another safe.”

Two of the incidents, which involved gun shots causing property damage, have been classified as criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.
During another shooting, categorized as reckless endangerment, a round was fired through a wall, entering an apartment; no one was injured

“I’m absolutely scared,” said a 24-year-old female resident of the complex. “I’m just trying to keep my daughters safe. We don’t know how long the cops will be here. The truth is that to live here you have to be wise and mind your own business. That’s all you can do.”

The two remaining shootings have both been classified as assaults.

The first stemmed from an argument that ensued at 2-10 27th Avenue on October 22 at 9:30 p.m. The dispute led to the discharging of shots, and an innocent, 16-year-old female was struck by a stray bullet while standing near the complex’s basketball courts.

The second shooting occurred on October 24 at 7:48 p.m., when an attempted robbery turned violent, say police. While a 26-year-old, male resident of Astoria Houses was walking to his apartment, two black males attempted to hold him up. When the victim fled, the suspects opened fire, striking him once in the left foot and again in the right calf.

The two assaults are the only gun-related injuries to occur at the houses this year, compared to one in 2010, during which 22-year-old Kalis Canady was shot in the head and killed.

“I stopped my grandkids from coming out here, just until all of this gets together,” said another female resident of Astoria Houses. “I don’t want them to walk around here because you never know when there can be shootings. It’s very ugly.”

Living at the houses has become work for some, with rules and regulations dictating how residents can behave.

“It’s best to try and avoid situations and come outside only when you have to. Other than that stay inside,” Santana said. “I’ve never really let my son come outside, but it all comes with living in the projects. I just want to get out of here and give my kids something better.”

No arrests have been made in connection with the incidents, and the investigations are ongoing.

In response to the recent rise in gun violence, the police have stationed a temporary headquarters vehicle (THV) at the complex. The NYPD has also implemented a tower with video surveillance, assigned additional plainclothes officers to the area and increased patrols, particularly late at night.

Confidential informants are being contacted by the police as well.

The Courier witnessed an NYPD mobile command truck parked on Astoria Boulevard and 8th Street on October 31, and noticed squad cars driving past the complex every five to 10 minutes.

Although police say there is no evidence of gang activity in connection with the shootings, groups of individuals have been seen congregating in the vicinity of the basketball courts.

Despite the increase in police presence, many residents remain unconvinced a significant change will occur.

“The cops here aren’t going to do anything,” Santana said. “Once they leave it will go back to the same thing. I remember during a shooting a while ago, the police didn’t even show up. They don’t care. They get on the news and make their big speeches saying ‘We’re on it,’ but really, they don’t care. In these projects, the majority of the people are the minority.”