By David Brand
Ozone Park’s diverse ethnic and religious communities have united to demand a stronger security presence in the neighborhood amid a series of violent attacks, particularly against Muslim residents.
Neighborhood activists have organized a rally Friday at Liberty Plaza to demand that the 102nd and 106th Precincts step up patrols in the area and to ask that the city install better lighting along dim corridors, where several residents have been assaulted beneath the elevated A train tracks in recent months.
“We don’t get patrollings, we don’t get responses on time from the NYPD,” said Iqbal Ali of the Muslim Community Patrol & Services. “People are afraid to report crimes, [even if] they are victims because of their immigration status or lack of language.”
On the evening of Nov. 1, a group of men attacked a man at the 80th Street A Train station after he refused to open an emergency entrance, the NYPD said. He was left bleeding and discovered by a passerby who called 911. Members of the 106th Precinct met with community leaders to discuss the incident and their concerns Thursday. They will attend the rally Friday, an NYPD spokesperson said.
Ozone Park is one of the most multicultural communities in New York City — immigrants account for nearly half the population and no single racial or ethnic group comprises more than 27 percent of the population in Community District 10, which includes Ozone Park and nearby Howard Beach.
The various ethnic and religious groups often end up advocating in separate spaces, however, Ali said.
“There are a lot of Bangladeshis, West Indians, black people, a lot of cultures in Ozone Park and that can make it difficult for everyone to unite,” Ali said. “We want the community to work together for the community rather than for different cultures and religions do their own things.”
The recent assault was the latest attack on or near Liberty Avenue, where a delivery man was robbed and beaten last month. Another man was attacked in January and there was shootout at a bar in March.
In 2016, an imam was shot dead near his mosque on Liberty Avenue.
A new commander from the 106th Precinct recently met with community members and pledged to step up enforcement, but activist Felicia Singh said residents have heard the same, unfulfilled commitments before.
“We feel the attention and urgency from the precincts is slow and we need to be taken seriously,” she said. “Why do we have to get to this point for you to notice us?”