ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local mother says she and her children are traumatized after a shooting ripped bullet holes in their Albany home and right over their heads.
“This place was going to be a secure, safe place for me and my children to live until they were grown. My dreams have been shattered,” says Larae Haywood.
Shattered like the windows all over her apartment. Larae Haywood says the patches can’t cover up the scars that show just how close she, her youngest son, and daughter came to death back on September 6. A shooting on South Pearl Street sent bullets across several units of the Ezra Prentice Apartments. Haywood says her son still can’t set foot inside.
“He breaks down, he starts to cry, he says mom, I can’t go back there. I’m not going back there, I don’t feel safe. I don’t want anything to happen to you,” she describes.
Her oldest son is also recovering from surgery. He says he’s scared that if the shooters came back, he couldn’t escape even if he tried his hardest.
“It would not make me comfortable sitting there, knowing that my doors and windows are vulnerable, again, and it wasn’t comfortable knowing that my mom sits there all the time,” says Marcel Davis while looking at the couch he would have been recuperating on. It’s also where his mom was sitting when a bullet shattered the window directly behind her head.
Haywood says because of her children’s fears, she can’t bear to make them come home. She says the Albany County District Attorney’s Office offered them a week in a hotel, but once that ran out, so did their options.
“We’re in our car. We don’t have a permanent place to stay,” Haywood says with tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to come back to live here. I’m afraid. I don’t know what it was about, I don’t know who they were looking for, but I don’t feel safe and my children should not have to live with this fear.”
“This is some type of gang and gun violence and it’s affecting me and my children deeply. My daughter is working two jobs, trying to get to college. She’s just trying to live. My big guy, he’s just had his knee replaced, the surgery, you know. My little guy, he’s got special needs and, like I said, he’s traumatized,” she goes on to say.
The Ezra Prentice Apartments are part of combined public housing and federal tax credit housing. Haywood says she’s called and called the Albany Housing Authority to find out when her windows will be fixed. Security Director Brian Quinn says the work is on its way.
“We made repairs to the apartment. Some items are still on order, we are waiting for them to come in to complete it. Right now all the units are habitable and safe,” says Quinn in a phone call with NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
He says in the meantime, his office fortified existing security with the Albany Police Department.
“We have an agreement with the Albany Police Department where we use Albany police officers as security. We try to give them anything they need. They have access to our cameras 24/7, they have access to me 24/7, and if they have any questions and concerns, we are with them 100 percent,” he explains.
“The Ezra Prentice homes, you know, that’s a relatively quiet area. At this point, there is no indication that violence is coming from any tenant in Albany Housing Authority. Most of this gun violence is coming from public streets and the rounds unfortunately are striking our properties. That being said, we do aggressively enforce our leases on criminal conduct. So if we find out that somebody on the property is involved in criminal activity, we take it very seriously, we investigate it, and we pursue evictions if that’s appropriate,” Quinn goes on to say.
However, Haywood says her best option would be to leave the complex all together. She’s had no word on her options there either.
“My [youngest] son, next week his school is going virtual. It would be mental anguish for me to try to make that kid work from this spot,” says Haywood at her dining room table. She says it’s the only place in the home where her son can work on schoolwork, which includes an IEP. It’s also where he was sitting when three bullets crashed through the window less than a foot away.
Housing Authority Director Chiquita D’Arbeau says she and her staff are trying their best to accommodate those who want to stay and leave Ezra Prentice after the shooting, but apartments to fit Haywood and her three kids are extremely limited across the city.
“Four bedroom apartments, I will say are very limited and usually when a family is moved in, they tend to stay for a long time, because they’re extremely hard to come by. So we’re about at capacity there. Also, not being able to process, you know, evictions due to the moratorium on evictions and limitations also poses a problem, as it relates to, you know, vacancies,” D’Arbeau explains.
“We care, I don’t want them to think otherwise, and we will do what we can to assist within our power. We are limited, there are things we can and can’t do, but being the landlords, you know, that doesn’t mean we don’t care. The safety of our residents is always a major concern,” she goes on to say.
Haywood says her biggest disappointment at the moment is communication. NEWS10 witnessed city officials, including D’Arbeau, Quinn, and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, visiting the complex on September 10. Haywood says even though they saw the damage and her struggles first hand, she still hasn’t gotten a call back on any of her concerns. She says a pro bono legal advocate was the one to reach out and tell her there were no more four bedroom tax credit apartments in the city.
“Verbally or in writing, let me know what the steps are to repairing the apartment,” she says. “That’s just at the very least, you know? Because this is just a constant reminder of what happened here September 6.”
“This is not our fault. This is not Albany Housing’s fault that somebody came and shot up the apartment. It’s not my fault, you know we are the victims here, but Albany Housing Authority is responsible for maintaining the property,” she goes on to say.
“Everywhere my mom’s been calling they’ve just been very nonchalant, and that makes me very upset because it’s like they don’t care,” says Davis. “Imagine this has happened to your family and school is right around the corner and imagine your little brother being traumatized of going back into the place where you lived for almost two years. For this to happen to us is just heartbreaking.”