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Questions raised on plan to boost security at housing agency's HQ

Within the last month, office windows have been tinted at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority headquarters. A $38,000 estimate also was obtained for installing perimeter fencing, and plans made for additional lighting.

One board member has questioned how the residents living in the authority's 27 public housing developments might feel about such moves. After all, Joseph Mascia noted, these residents lost their the 26-member police force in 2005 after authority officials voted to eliminate it to save money.

"It's not sending the right message," Mascia, a tenant-elected commissioner, said of the plans for the authority's headquarters at 300 Perry St. "It says they're afraid of being where they are. Do they want to move the executive offices to Orchard Park?"

Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders said security has not been breached at the Perry Street building, but the new security measures and discussions are part of a bigger picture: an overall security analysis of all the authorities developments and offices.

"We have to provide a safe environment for our residents and employees," she said. "We are in the process of doing assessments of all our buildings -- lighting, signage -- to make sure they're safe. Talk about the program in its entirety. We're looking at security measures at all our developments."

Sanders added that the authority is working with the Buffalo Police Department on a security plan for the entire agency.

The Perry Street headquarters, Mascia and Sanders pointed out, had some degree of security before the director and a new board of commissioners came on board over the past two years. Cameras are located throughout the building. Employees are required to use electronic devices to enter through the back door. At the front door, the receptionist buzzes everyone in.

That should be enough, Mascia argued.

"At 4:30 p.m., they leave here and go home. They get to close the door. We have to live this everyday, all the time," said Mascia, who lives in the Marine Drive apartments.

Some employees do work past 4:30 p.m., especially when involve in a special project, Sanders said, explaining the plan for additional lighting.

"There were reports of people wandering, and we want to make sure the perimeter of the building will be lit up," she said.


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