ORANGEBURG, NY — Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile and the New York City Housing Authority jointly announced today a new public/private initiative to combat arson in public housing developments. Through the cellular company's "Wireless at Work ..." program, 100 cellular phones ready for 9-1-1 use are being donated to the Housing Authority's tenant and youth patrols which are organized and trained to spot arson in public developments, and notify police. Patrol volunteers will also be able to call the Police Department's Emergency Services Squad hotline number wirelessly.

Arson is a significant problem -- more than 550 buildings in 71 developments throughout the City are identified as "high risk." The Housing Authority and the Fire Department have made great progress with new initiatives to control fires, and the introduction of the portable cellular phones to the patrols represents another significant step forward. With cellular phones in hand, the patrols can report incidents immediately, call for help to control fires and catch offenders more quickly -- all of which can save lives.

"The cellular phones are specially programmed so that the youth and tenant patrols can call for assistance and supervision," said Rick Conrad, president, New York metro region, Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile. "This is one example of the many ways wireless communications can help solve the City's most pressing problems and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers."

"Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile's cellular phones will immediately transform our youth patrols into active arson patrols," said Housing Authority Chairman Ruben Franco. "Citizens' patrol groups like these can be very effective in deterring criminal activity in large housing developments. And the speed the phones provide -- nearly instant communication with police -- will be a key factor in apprehending arsonists and virtually eliminating this problem. In fact, the use of cellular phones is an increasingly important part of law enforcement technology for us."

"It is public/private partnerships like this one which help our City become safer every day," said Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. "This is the latest of several cellular phone donations from Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile to the City of New York in the last six months and we thank them once again for their help and commitment to the City."

The company also donated 50 cellular phones to support two of the Mayor's domestic violence initiatives launched last fall. Through Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile's "Wireless at Work..." initiative, victims of domestic violence seeking help through the Mayor's "Project SAFE" and "Alternatives to Shelter" programs get wireless anytime, anywhere access to 9-1-1, free of charge, to help protect them from future attacks.

The Housing Authority formed the "Prevent Fire Youth Patrol" program in November 1995, after a rash of stairwell fires claimed two lives. Building tenant associations supervise the patrols, which currently include more than 300 youngsters who reside in the developments.

So far, the patrols are a great success. One youth patrol is credited with containing a stairwell fire at Castle Hills Houses in the Bronx, and several arson arrests have been made as a result of the patrols' work. The Housing Authority is expanding the program to include 500 housing residents. Federal housing funds cover the costs.

The company has been providing wireless communications solutions to those most in need since 1984. In 1993, the company introduced a free cellular voice mail service called Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile HopeLine® throughout the East Coast. HopeLine has been expanded to also serve victims of domestic violence in eight counties in New Jersey, and in Westchester, New York. The company plans more cellular phone donations and outreach programs in the City to those in greatest need.

With 3.4 million customers, Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile is the largest wireless service provider on the East Coast and the second largest provider in the United States. Headquartered in Bedminster, New Jersey, the company offers a full range of wireless voice, data and paging communications solutions to customers in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile was formed in July 1995 through the combination of Bell Atlantic Mobile's and NYNEX Mobile's operations. The company's New York-New Jersey metro region headquarters is based in Orangeburg, New York.