One Astoria legislator is keeping an eye on crime – literally.
Following the violent mugging of a neighborhood deli owner in a local parking lot – which went undetected due to a broken Department of Transportation (DOT) surveillance camera – Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has installed his own recording device overlooking the area, located at 33rd Street between 23rd Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria.
Vallone, who is the chair of the public safety committee, was unable to convince the DOT to repair its recorder, and instead, had the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit install a camera on the side of his district office.
“When DOT admitted ownership, their first response was, ‘It doesn’t work and we are going to remove it immediately,’ instead of ‘We will fix it immediately.’ It was then removed without telling us. I decided I wasn’t going to deal with the bureaucracy, and I’d put a camera here on the side of my office. We are trying to prevent people from pulling stupid stunts, but if they insist, we will capture it on camera, they will get their 15 minutes of fame and hopefully 15 days in jail.”
To alert patrons and criminals alike that they are being taped, Vallone also installed a humorous sign next to the device which reads, “Smile You’re on Council Camera” – a reference to the television show “Candid Camera.”
The councilmember’s actions were prompted by the vicious attack on Rosario DiMarco, who owns Rosario’s Deli, located on 22-55 31st Street in Astoria.
DiMarco was beaten and mugged by two men in the municipal lot on December 21 of last year. The 54-year-old father of three was sprayed in the eyes with mace and struck multiple times with a stick. He also severely strained a ligament in his right hand when he was knocked to the ground.
“I’ve been doing physical therapy for three months,” he said. “[My hand] is at about 75 to 80 percent now.”
DiMarco was “pretty furious” upon learning that the DOT’s camera was unable to capture the criminals.
“Why do they have a camera if it doesn’t work,” he said. “The city doesn’t care about the outer boroughs like Queens – only Manhattan. If this was a camera in Manhattan it would have been working. They have money to change the signs for the names of bridges, why don’t they protect the people?”
The deli owner, who is concerned about the camera’s fate after Vallone’s council term ends, is pleased someone is now paying attention.
Vallone – who also had an NYPD recording device installed on Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Avenue – is hoping the camera will dissuade deviants from preying on people in the poorly-lit lot, which he says has an “occasional homeless population.”