Residents of Boulevard Houses are calling on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to install security cameras as quickly as possible in the housing project where P.J. Avitto and his friend Mikayla Capers were attacked.
According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYCHA has been sitting on $27 million set aside for security gear, and has had $500,000 ready for cameras for almost a year now.
“We’ve been fighting for this money, we know the money was there,” Inez Rodriguez, president of the Boulevard Houses Tenants Association, said. “There was no need for them to keep us waiting all this time.”
“East New York will get respect,” she added. “This is not Borough Park. Look how fast they got their cameras. That is not fair.”
Rodriguez said she knew P.J. from his birth.
Six-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto, or P.J., was riding in an elevator with his friend Mikayla, 7, when the two were attacked by Daniel St. Hubert. The 27-year-old recently released convict stabbed P.J. to death and left Mikayla in critical condition before fleeing the scene. He was arrested on June 5.
It has been reported that Mikayla has recovered enough to be released from the Intensive Care Unit.
According to P.J.’s godmother, Annabelle Diaz, P.J. was smart, funny and loving.
“For this to happen, that baby lost his life for what? He didn’t live,” Diaz said. “He was about to turn seven on the 17th. We had dreams for this boy. He had dreams, and now what? Our dreams are all crushed.”
Diaz was also frustrated that cameras have not been placed around the housing project.
“It’s not right,” she said. “Boulevard, you got the money for it, but again, you don’t have no cameras. There are no cameras out here.”
For P.J.’s mother, Aricka McClinton, some relief came, she said, when P.J. visited her while she was sleeping.
“My baby came to me in my sleep. ‘Mommy, everything will be alright. Don’t stop. Don’t give up,’” McClinton said.
But the reality, she said, is that she will never see her child again. She said she will be at the trial for suspect St. Hubert because she wants “to see justice served.”
“My baby is gone. [St. Hubert] may be in jail, but my baby can’t come back,” she said. “He’s not coming back.”
St. Hubert is currently in the psych ward at Bellevue Hospital, where his mental stability reportedly even has the staff worried.
He was released from prison at the end of May, nine days before the stabbings. He had been previously convicted of trying to strangle his mother with an electrical cord and had spent five years in jail for attempted murder.
During that period, he was transferred into the custody of the state Office of Mental Health three times.
The tragedy once again brings up questions of mental health, following a slew of shootings, most recently in Santa Barbara, where the killer was afterward realized to have been emotionally and mentally unstable.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the treatment of mental illness a “fundamental American problem.”
“The fact is, we believe there’s a fundamental problem in the city and the state and this country, that the prison system has been used as a de facto mental health system for many individuals,” the mayor said at an unrelated press event days after the stabbing.
“In this case, look, I think it seems to be that this is someone who had very severe mental health problems, and I don’t know why those were not caught earlier except, again, our larger problem,” de Blasio said. “Our prison system in New York State, our prison system all over the country, does not address mental issues. We do not put in resources in as a country. We should not be surprised that there are so many tragic situations.”