By Rebecca Henely
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he has paid for new security cameras at two Astoria libraries in response to a man’s inappropriate touching of a 9-year-old girl at the Steinway Library last year.
“If we had them in place at the time, we’d have a picture of this pervert,” Vallone said.
The councilman said security cameras have already been installed at the Steinway Library, at 21-45 31st St. in Astoria, and will be placed in the Astoria Library, at 14-01 Astoria Blvd., within the next year.
At the Steinway library Aug. 9, a Hispanic man about 35 to 40 years old removed the girl’s shoes, rubbed her feet with his hands and placed her feet on his face, police said. The NYPD describes the man, who remains unapprehended, as 170 pounds with short shaved salt-and-pepper hair.
When last seen, he was wearing a dark-colored T-shirt, blue jeans and black sneakers with a white design, police said.
Vallone said after the girl was attacked, he met with the girl and her mother.
“The kid was awesome and gave a great description, but unfortunately it’s difficult to find somebody based solely on a sketch,” Vallone said.
The Steinway Library has a policy of always having two employees in the children’s room, Vallone said.
“Despite that, this attack still happened, so cameras offer additional protection,” he said.
The councilman said he sponsored a resolution urging the state to require cameras in the children’s sections of all libraries, but he said until the state passes a law requiring it, he has tried to install cameras for the children’s section in the libraries in his district.
He said he had done the same for all the schools in his district after he was first elected to the Council in 2002.
Joanne King, spokeswoman for the Queens Library, said the cameras were one of many improvements the councilman had funded for the Steinway Library. Others that will be installed later include a new roof and updates to the library’s wheelchair accessibility and decor.
“We’re very grateful to the councilmen for his participation in keeping the library safe and secure,” she said.
King said while one child violated was too many, libraries are still by and large not dangerous.
“Queens libraries are overwhelmingly safe places to be,” King said. “People are very respectful of the library. They behave well in the library.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.