Community protests proposed shelter after recent attacks
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Oct 17, 2018 | 415 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two recent attacks prompted the Ozone Park community to continue its protest of a proposed homeless shelter at 85-15 101st Avenue.

The first incident occurred on October 1, when a man knocked a woman unconscious on 84th Street. The woman was walking with her four-year-old son, who witnessed the entire event.

The man was eventually arrested and charged with robbery, criminal possession of stolen property and endangering the welfare of a child,

On October 8, Shamin Ahmed and his wife were doing laundry late at the 24-hour Super Clean Laundromat at 74-02 101 Avenue, when Ahmed got into an argument with a man who was partially blocking the aisle. The situation escalated, and the man punched both Ahmed and his wife.

The attacker, known as “Knapsack” to the community, slept in and around the laundromat in apartment building foyers and an abandoned car. He was arrested following the incident.

Members of the local Bangladeshi community joined elected officials and the Ozone Park Residents Block Association last Friday afternoon on 101st Avenue.

They fear a possible uptick in violence if 113 mentally ill men are placed at the site of the former Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Resident Yvette Miller-Jones has lived in the neighborhood with her family for eight years.

“There are so many children in the neighborhood and so many parents allow their children to go to school by themselves,” said Miller-Jones. “I’ll have to worry about the day that my son will go to the store by himself.”

Khairul Islam Kukon, a local real estate broker, thinks the location of the homeless shelter is inappropriate.

He has several alternative locations, including sites on Pennsylvania Avenue and Linden Boulevard, Jamaica Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard, and Liberty Avenue and Shepherd Avenue, that he believes would be better options for the shelter.

“We must work side-by-side to stop this homeless shelter from being placed right in our face,” Kukon said. “The community deserves better and our kids deserve better.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez called for the city to change the shelter's targeted clientele from mentally ill men to a facility that cares for families and children.

“The reality is that we have 65,000 people who are homeless in New York City and 22,000 are children,” Velazquez said. “As a community, and as a city, we must take care of those most vulnerable.

“The fact that we have five schools nearby, homeowners and small businesses, this is not the appropriate place for this shelter at this time,” she added.

State Senator Joe Addabbo pointed out that although this is an issue of public safety, there’s also concern to find the best help for those who need it the most.

“We never said, as a community, no to a homeless shelter,” Addabbo said. “We said we’ll help and do our share, but give us women, give us domestic violence victims, give us seniors, give us veterans. We’ll accept them and welcome them into our community.”

Addabbo said when he spoke to Mayor Bill de Blasio in September, the mayor was unaware that the proposed site is located just two blocks from a school. He hopes the mayor will consider relocating the shelter.

“Those who truly need help with mental health should go to another facility that is better suited for them, and where they can get the help that they need,” Addabbo said.
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