NYCHA seeks young residents to combat violence

Bloody January helps spur Authority’s move to form advisory committee

The New York City Housing Authority is hoping to engage young public housing residents to help make the complexes they live in safer.

NYCHA’s vice president for public safety Gerald Nelson came to Mott Haven Houses on Alexander Avenue this afternoon to announce the formation of a new advisory board that will examine public safety issues, in the wake of a bad few months. In late January, a mentally ill man killed a 59-year-old-woman by slicing her up with a machete at the Mott Haven Houses, garnering a front page story in the New York Times. That followed another incident earlier in the month when a 24-year-old man who had been released from prison shot and wounded two officers during a vertical patrol in Melrose Houses before running into his girlfriend’s apartment and shooting and killing himself. 

Nelson, who will head the committee along with NYPD Housing Bureau Chief James Secreto and President of the NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents Ann Cotton Morris, said that he expected the committee to make a difference quickly.

“Because the NYPD is a part of it, because NYCHA is a part of it, we can do some meaningful policy changes and speak to the powers that be to get things implemented,” he said, adding that the district attorneys from all of the boroughs were on board with the project.

NYCHA residents will be recruited to fill several open committee slots, two of which will be reserved for residents between the ages of 18 and 24. Nelson noted that 41 percent of NYCHA residents are 25 years old or younger.

“We’re not going to dictate to them. We want them to be a part of this community and we want their input,” he said. He also hoped that younger committee members might encourage unconventional approaches to entrenched problems.

“That youth, coming in and saying something out-of-the-box, and you say ‘wow! Why didn’t we think of that before?’” he said, and pointed out that recent national headlines indicate young people across the country are increasingly getting involved in local issues.

Applicants for the open slots must be current NYCHA residents and be willing to commit five to ten hours per month to serve on the committee for at least one year. Applications for the open positions will be accepted through March 31, and the new members will be announced in April.

Applications can be found online at and NYCHA will be encouraging all public housing developments to keep physical copies of the applications available at their management offices.