NYCHA Adds Third Digital Van, Expanding Internet Access For Public Housing Residents


The newest “digital van.” Photo: Alex Gerald

NYCHA unveiled its third “digital van” – a computer lab on wheels – at the LaGuardia Houses on Tuesday. It is the latest addition to a very small fleet dedicated to touring public housing developments throughout the city, providing internet and computer services to residents who have limited or no access to digital services.

“This is an opportunity for residents to access the web,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “We’re bringing technology straight to people’s doors.”

Olatoye said the vans are just one component of NYCHA’s overall plan to stabilize its finances and become a more efficient agency.

Combined, the three vans reach a total of 36 NYCHA developments every two weeks, according to Olatoye. That’s double the reach of the first two “digital vans” alone, but with over 300 developments citywide, it’s still a drop in the bucket.

The authority faces a $60 million budget deficit this year, so it won’t be rolling out an entire army of “digital vans” any time soon. But the new addition is certainly welcome.

NYCHA IT executive John Saggese said internet access in most public housing buildings is “spotty.”

Many of NYCHA’s developments were, of course, built long before the internet was born, and were constructed using a lot of sturdy – but not Wi-Fi friendly – materials like brick and concrete.

Plus, many of New York City’s public housing projects are huge. The LaGuardia Houses, for example, consists of 10 buildings – each 16 stories tall – with over a thousand apartments total. And that’s just one of NYCHA’s 328 developments. 

“It would take a lot of routers to cover that,” Saggese said.

While NYCHA tenants can set up cable TV and internet service themselves, it isn’t cheap – especially for low-income residents. And sometimes, Saggese said, “even if they have internet, they don’t have a computer.”

That’s where the “digital vans” come in.

Each one is equipped with 8 Dell laptops, two tablets and two Wi-Fi hotspots that create a 150 foot “Wi-Fi bubble” around the van. And all of the devices can be used in seven different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Russian, Arabic and Bengali.

Kim Maxwell is the new van’s driver and instructor. He helps NYCHA tenants navigate the technology.

“For these residents, this is a necessity,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of people who are looking for work.”

Some show up to create, copy or scan their resumes, and many apply for jobs online. One tenant used the computers to finish an associate’s degree. Maxwell said he also get’s a lot of older residents who come in to learn basic computer skills like how to send an email.

Jessica Thomas, president of the tenant association at LaGuardia Houses, said of the newly unveiled van: “I love it. For people – even who are computer illiterate – it will open up a new world.”

The new “digital van” will remain at the LaGuardia Houses today and Friday. Click here for a full schedule of where the vans will be throughout the month. 


Kim Maxwell (Left) helps a NYCHA resident use the new computers. Photo: Alex Gerald

Cops Search For Suspects in Robbery, Chokehold Attack at La Guardia Houses

Police are looking for three suspects who put a resident of a Lower East Side building in a chokehold until he passed out — and then robbed him.

More Information on Attacks at Laguardia Houses

More details this morning on the suspect in the attacks on young women at the LaGuardia Houses.

As we reported over the weekend, police arrested Bronx resident Joseph Quirindongo in connection with two incidents, the most recent of which occurred on April 14th.

He’s been charged with attempted rape, assault and committing a criminal sex act.

DNA Info reports:

…On April 14, Quirindongo, who has a sealed arrest from 2008, followed a 17-year-old girl into an elevator at a building on Clinton and Madison Streets, court papers said. He allegedly told the victim, “If you don’t do what I say, I’ll cut your head off” and held a knife in front of her face. Quirindongo then dragged the girl by the hair into a stairwell and tried to sexually assault her, but she was able to fight him off, court papers said. At his arraignment Saturday, prosecutors said that the suspect allegedly left behind DNA and was spotted on surveillance footage casing both scenes.

Suspect Arrested In Lower East Side Attacks

Police have arrested a suspect in connection with two attacks that took place inside the LaGuardia Houses, on Clinton Street. Bronx resident Joseph Quirindongo, 20 years old, was taken into custody late last night and charged with attempted rape, assault and committing a criminal sex act.

The NYPD released surveillance video of the suspect shortly after an incident that took place April 14th. According to officers, Quirindongo used a knife to force a young woman from an elevator and into a stairwell. She was able to fight him off.  Police believe Quirindongo was responsible for a similar crime in the same housing complex last year. In the earlier attack, a woman was raped.

The Daily News reported Quirindongo was “led by cops from the Special Victims Unit stationhouse in East Harlem (last night), but he kept his eyes closed tightly and refused to answer reporters’ questions.”

New Security Video Released in Clinton Street Attack

As previously reported, Police are trying to find a suspect who tried to rape a woman in a building stairwell April 14th.  They say he used a knife to force her from an elevator in the Laguardia Houses on Clinton Street, but she was able to fight him off and he fled. Now the NYPD has released surveillance video clearly showing the suspect:

Investigators believe the suspect is also responsible for the rape of a woman in another part of the Laguardia public housing complex on the morning of January 18th, 2010.

The suspect is described as 17 to 25 years old, 5-feet-8-inches to 5-feet-10-inches tall and heavy set.  If you have information about either incident, call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). You can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at or by texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) — enter TIP577.