It was far from a quiet first day on the job for the new head of the NYPD’s Housing Bureau.
Housing Chief Martine Materasso immediately had to tackle a crisis when she stepped into the role last month — a crazed gunman had gone on a shooting spree that left two people dead at NYCHA developments in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“The acting began that night at midnight,” Materasso, 45, recently said of being named “acting chief” of the bureau on Dec. 5, when shooting suspect Sundance Oliver, 28, allegedly launched his rampage.
Materasso, who has since been appointed full chief, spoke to The Post last week while walking through NYCHA’s Smith Houses on the Lower East Side, where a monument stands to 21-year-old Kevon Langston, one of Oliver’s alleged victims.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it just seems like you have that dark cloud over you when you move,” she said. “Something just always happens.”
The former NYPD counterterrorism chief said she plans on cleaning house — making tackling violence and quality of life issues in public housing developments among her top priorities.
“I mean, violence is always our number one (concern), the shootings, the robberies,” she said.
“But then again, when you speak to these residents, they don’t want to have to walk over somebody shooting up heroin in their lobbies,” Materasso said. “It’s not fair to the people going to work in the morning. It’s not fair to these children. So our focus still has to be there. So we got to be able to do both simultaneously. And we’re definitely able to do that.”
Materasso recalled starting her first day on the subway – an assignment all chiefs had to complete per Mayor Eric Adams – but rushing to be with her cops when reports of the first housing complex shooting came in.
“That’s when I came into a really chaotic scene where we were looking for a person who had just killed one individual and was involved in other shooting incidents as well,” she said.
Oliver, an apparent gang member with a lengthy rap sheet, had allegedly killed Langston at the development in the shadow of NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza.
A CitiBike, a water bottle and a black letter “K” still stand as a makeshift memorial to Langston outside the building where he was gunned down.
“It was a little chaotic,” said Officer Wilber Martinez, who works in the Housing Bureau’s Public Service Area 4.
“Everybody was concerned, the residents. They knew something was wrong.”
Information was scant in the shooting’s immediate aftermath, but Martinez, who has 10 years on the job, said he and his partner tried to help calm residents down.
After killing Langston, Oliver allegedly traveled to Brooklyn and fatally shot Keyaira Rattray-Brothers, 17, in the Kingsborough Houses in Crown Heights.
One of his bullets also struck a 96-year-old man who was on a motorized wheelchair at a Brooklyn bus stop. Oliver had allegedly been shooting at a woman and an errant bullet hit the man in the ankle.
“As this was happening, we had officers walking on the bridges, making sure we had people in place because we were concerned about a car he might be using,” Materasso said of the suspect. “He turned himself in, Thank God, before anybody else lost their life.”
Oliver turned himself in at the 77th Precinct in Brooklyn, in a scene caught on surveillance video. Prosecutors revealed at his arraignment that he had allegedly been planning to shoot up the precinct.
The two killings in public housing were a blow to Materasso — who was once dubbed “Wonder Woman” by fellow officers — since it is her goal to ensure residents are safe in their homes.
Since being assigned to her new post, Materasso has been meeting with development council presidents about their concerns about safety and other issues, she said.
The bureau has dealt with those issues by writing more summonses, the chief explained at a recent press conference.
“They say they want to see the cops out there and they want to see us addressing quality of life issues,” she said at the presser at One Police Plaza.
“As a result, our PSAs have collectively issued over 5,000 summonses and oath summonses,” she said. “This is a 164% increase from last year. Included in these complaints are the reckless use of dirt bikes and ATVs.”
Oath summonses can also be written for noise and other quality of life complaints.
Materasso also boasted that the Housing Bureau’s cops took 318 guns off the streets single-handedly in 2022.
“So the guys and girls are out there,” she said. “They’re engaging and they’re in the right places.”
While homicides and shootings are down, some index crimes — including robbery — are spiking in housing developments, she has acknowledged to The Post.
“We are spiking in the Bronx as well as Manhattan North,” she said. “We have our eye on those two for sure.”
As of Jan. 8, robbery was up 53.3% from 15 at that point in 2022 to 23 so far in 2023 in housing citywide, NYPD data show. Assault was up 10.7% from 56 to 62.
The department will move resources and allocate more overtime if necessary to bring those numbers down, she said.
“Whatever we have to do to suppress crime, make sure the presence is out there,” she said. “At least that will deter for a period, but we still need to get those bad guys and girls off the street.”
She has 2,200 cops under her command, a small percentage of the 36,000 citywide.
Another major goal for Materasso is to help win over young people in public housing — one she says is being achieved by the Cornerstone Programs, which were already in place when she started and are run out of 100 community centers in housing.
“We have all these centers that are open to really late hours,” she said. “We want to make sure the youth aren’t saying ‘Where else am I gonna go? I gotta pick a crew or a side.’ We don’t want them to do that. We want them to have another avenue.”
Materasso never had any doubt about what she wanted to do when she was growing up. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father Chief Alfred Materasso.
“My brother teaches at our old high school and all the teachers are like ‘Wow, she really did it because she said the whole time that’s what she wanted to do,’” she said.
“I was always like, police officer, police officer, police officer,” she recalled. “It’s always been a passion for me.”
For his part, her dad’s been supportive of her career, she said.
“He understands how important this job is to the people of the city because he saw that turnaround,” she said. “He was there in the 70s, and the 80s and the 90s.”
Materasso’s husband, Peter Fortune, is also on the job. So when she’s out all night for a case her family steps in, as they did during last month’s shooting rampage.
“I was like, ‘I’m not coming home anytime soon,’” she recalled saying while making sure her husband was available to take care of the girls, 12 and 15.
But she managed when they were much younger. March 1 will mark her 23rd year on the force, which passed “like the blink of an eye,” she said.
Back up on the 9th Floor of NYPD headquarters, Materasso’s new office is already decked out in police regalia, including dozens of challenge coins, the NYPD coins that commemorate officers and events. She also has family and department photos galore — as well as prominent drawn depictions and a doll of Wonder Woman.
Some officers referred to Materasso as Wonder Woman when she served in the 41st Precinct in the Bronx because they were amazed by how much she got done, she said.
She once told “Today Show” host Savannah Guthrie that other female cops also called her Wonder Woman because her rise was inspirational.
“They all say, ‘How do you do this?” Materasso said after taking over as the city’s first female counterterrorism chief in 2000.
“‘How are you able to be a wife, a mother of two kids and have a position of leadership in the NYPD?’ and I think that they see if I can juggle it, any of them can juggle it.”
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