In a locket around her neck, Aricka McClinton carries the ashes of her six-year-old son Prince Joshua “PJ” Avitto. She says the whole family does the same.
“We go nowhere without them. We wear them every day. Every day. This is our baby,” McClinton says.
In June, Prince Joshua, known as PJ, and 7-year-old friend Mikayla Capers were stabbed in an elevator in the Boulevard Houses. Mikayla survived. Ex-convict Daniel St. Hubert is charged with the crime.
“It’s never enough security, if you ask me,” McClinton says.
There were no security cameras at the time of the attack. Since the tragedy, the city ordered more to be installed but there aren’t enough funds to equip all housing developments.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries says the federal government needs to help. He introduced legislation right before Congress recessed this month called PJ’s Act.
“It makes no sense that the federal government currently does not help public housing residents live in safety and security. PJ’s Act is designed to change that,” Jeffries says.
The bill allows for the city’s housing authority to tap into billions available under the community development block grant program. It’s the largest federal program to help states and cities with quality-of-life issues.
“PJ’s act is designed to provide an additional source of federal funding to make sure that public housing developments such as every single one in the city of New York has the ability to install cameras, adequate lighting and safety locks,” Jeffries says.
McClinton gave her blessing to the bill. So did her pastor.
“All of us want to know that we could do something about this great tragedy to make sure that this doesn’t happen to another mother, another father. another family every again. So this to us, is part of the healing process,” says Rep. David Brawley of St. Paul Community Baptist Church.
Jeffries says he will secure support for the PJ Act when Congress returns after Labor Day.
In addition to the legislation, there are also plans in the neighborhood to name a community center and a street in honor of PJ.