Vigil remembers Evelyn Shapiro as questions on housing safety surface

Father Nikolin Pergjini (l) leads mourners through the streets of Morris Park for a vigil remembering Evelyn Shapiro, the 88-year-old grandmother found bludgeoned to death in Pelham Houses.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

There are now 18,000 reasons to help track the killer of a slain Pelham Parkway grandmother.

The reward to find Evelyn Shapiro’s killer is up to $18,000, nearly a month after cops found her bludgeoned body at her home in Pelham Parkway Houses.

As the reward increased, friends gathered in front of Shapiro’s building July 17 for a vigil remembering the spriteful 88-year-old tenant.

“If somebody knows something they could say something,” said organizer Lorraine Ritter, a tenant in the three-section NYCHA complex on Williamsbridge Road.

Clergy members led the solemn vigil, with several dozen participants marching around the perimeter of Pelham Houses. They stopped at various spots, including St. Lucy’s Church, where Fr. Nikolin Pergjini offered prayers.

Shapiro was found dead inside her top floor aparment June 16, with her groceries strewn about the floor, leading police to believe her death was the result of a push-in robbery. Cops have stayed quiet on the investigation, offering no new information.

Her murder has left the many senior citizen residents of the Pelham Houses shaken.

“You don’t know who’s going to be next,” said Carmen DeLeon, a four-year resident at Pelham Houses. Since the murder, DeLeon said she carries her own groceries.

Elizabeth Fletcher echoed the same feeling. “This could happen to anybody,” she said.

There were no security cameras in the development, adding to a greater challenge for police in finding the killer.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca has now set aside $4.6 million in getting cameras into the complex by next year.

But the murder has also raised questions on the overall safety at Pelham Houses, where part of the complex has been dubbed “Siberia” for its high crime rate.

“We have seen a decline in these buildings,” said Ritter.

Plaguing Pelham Houses is persistent gang activity, namely by the reputed Gorilla Stone Mafia, with sects all over the city.

On top of gang and drug activity, Ritter said there’s a spike in quality-of-life issues encroaching on the once jewel of the NYCHA porfolio.

“Garbage goes out the window, people urinate all over the place,” said Ritter. “That’s not really respectful.”

Another odius element, according to Ritter, are doors wedged open at the development.

“Anybody from the street can just come in.”

In a statement, NYCHA said it’s working on “increasing communication about safety issues with residents, enlisting them as partners in crime prevention.”

They encourage residents to volunteer for the Resident Watch Patrol, a neighborhood watch patrol.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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