Joseph Colella's Fourth of July ended with a bang. The Ozone Park resident woke up on July 5 to find his Lincoln Towncar's windshield smashed.
"One car had a big concrete boulder thrown through the windshield. Mine, they threw the sanitation garbage can from the corner through my windshield," said Colella.
Colella lives a few doors down from a contested city homeless shelter on 101st Avenue. His car was one of three damaged, and he says he has no doubt where the vandal is from.
"It's got to be the shelter. Because we tried to go talk to the shelter, we tried to view their cameras, not us personally but the 106 Precinct went to go view the cameras, but they wouldn't show it to them. So, right there, you're guilty," said Colella.
According to the Ozone Park Residents Block Association, officers from the local precinct were told they'd need a subpoena to view the shelter's surveillance video. So, the group is taking matters into its own hands. They've raised money to install their own surveillance system. It will have eight cameras facing the shelter.
"We have no choice. If we don't do it, no one is going to do it for us. And in the end, someone is really going to get hurt," said Sam Esposito, the president of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association.
Last summer, Esposito went on a hunger strike to protest the plans to build a shelter to house 113 men with mental illnesses.
"It's a recipe for disaster," said Esposito, at the time.
He feared it would deteriorate the quality of life in the neighborhood. He says after the vandalism and reports of shelter residents relieving themselves and sleeping on the street, his protests were warranted.
"The concerns are coming true," said Esposito.
The NYPD says owners of two vehicles reported them vandalized on July 5, but the department could not confirm whether officers were denied access to the shelter's cameras.
The city's Department of Homeless Services says there's no evidence a client was involved and calls the block association's claims a "shameful and irresponsible" attempt to smear and gin up fear about the New Yorkers the agency serves.
Esposito says the block association's cameras will be installed next week.