Bringing peace to the Queensbridge Houses

Long-time tenants of the Queensbridge Houses describe the largest public housing development in North America as a place historically plagued with violence. But in 2016 that all changed.

"In the past year where we had no shootings and homicides in Queensbridge," said K Bain, the founder and program director of 696 Build Queensbridge. It's a city initiative that got its name from the six blocks of the Long Island City housing complex with its 96 buildings. 696 started just over a year ago and the decrease in violence has been dramatic.

"A lot of the times we're here before an issue, before something escalates or right after violence has occurred," K Bain said. "We'll get the call and know that a retaliation is being planned and because we have those in-roads, we get into the community and try to deescalate the situation."

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area, credits much of the program's success to the employment of community members who live in this NYCHA complex.

"They can actually talk to their friends, their colleagues in ways that maybe the police officers can't, and I think their disrupting of violence, their interventions are working," Van Bramer said.

Daymond Dollison has lived in Queensbridge for 45 years and spent more than a decade behind bars. He has seen it all and calls 696 a real game-changer for this community.

"It's been a beautiful thing, it's actually been a blessing to me because they came in at a time when things weren't so great," Dollison said.

Shameya Muniz, another long-time tenant, was born here and never left. She said she became jaded by the violence, but now calls it a miracle that she hasn't heard a gunshot for so long.

"There are really no words to express how big that is, especially someone like me who grew up here, who has seen people die, who has seen people been shot, been jumped, been hurt," Muniz said. "To not see that for a whole year straight and just enjoy the good days here, that's always a good thing."

Queensbridge is one of 15 NYCHA complexes throughout the city targeted by the mayor's action plan for neighborhood safety.