CITY OF NEWBURGH – On his second day as Newburgh city manager in 2014, Michael Ciaravino toured the dispatch room at police headquarters.
Of all the monitors he saw, “at least one-third” were not working and “a couple more” were fuzzy, he told the City Council on Monday. Of the police department’s 18 surveillance cameras, half work on an “intermittent basis,” Ciaravino said.
“We do not find this acceptable,” he said.
For two weeks, the condition of Newburgh’s police surveillance system has been in the spotlight, spurred by the Aug. 30 shooting death of recent Newburgh Free Academy graduate Keyshan Gayle, 18, outside a grocery store that sits across Fullerton Avenue from a mounted camera.
Pressured by Gayle’s family and friends, the Council postponed approval on Monday of a $564,300 contract for a long-planned skateboard park as the city considers constructing a scaled-down version and using the savings on surveillance cameras.
It came during an emotional standing-room-only, four-and-a-half-hour meeting at which Gayle’s mother, sister and friends demanded that the city repair nonworking cameras and improve street lighting.
They heard Ciaravino describe some of the problems that have beset a current project to install three wireless digital cameras, and vow to finish the larger plan to repair and replace existing cameras.
“We’re going to make this more of an effort – more of a priority than even the water crisis,” he said.
Few shootings have galvanized Newburgh residents like the killing of Gayle outside a corner store at Fullerton and Third streets. Shot once in the back, he died just more than two months after graduating from Newburgh Free Academy and five months before he was to start college.
The morning after the shooting, Councilman Torrance Harvey renewed his call for more surveillance cameras and expressed his exasperation over delays in the installation of the digital cameras. He also said a camera near the shooting scene, at Bush and Third streets, was not working.
“It hurts my heart; it hurts my soul,” said Harvey, who teaches at NFA and is friends with Gayle’s uncle.
Harvey has openly criticized the administration for delays in getting the three digital cameras up and running, a project police Chief Dan Cameron first announced in March. Cameron and Ciaravino said the project has been delayed by logistical and technical problems.
Central Hudson had to replace two utility poles because they were deemed too unstable to withstand the drilling required to mount the cameras, Ciaravino said. There were also trees that had to be cut down to improve sightlines, he said.
Now the city is waiting for Central Hudson to run power to the cameras, Ciaravino said.
The city is also awaiting permission to use about $100,000 in state and federal grant funds that were initially given for other purposes, Ciaravino said.
“Our goal is to have cameras throughout the community,” Ciaravino said.