Community in Anguish After Ozone Park 19-Year-Old Fatally Shot by NYPD

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger.com

A 19-year-old Bengali Ozone Park resident named Win Rozario called 911 on Wednesday, March 27 seeking help while suffering from mental distress. He was fatally shot by the police officers who responded to the call. 

The NYPD alleges that Rozario threatened those police officers with scissors. 

Rozario’s death has sparked mourning and urgent calls for change across the Bengali and Bangladeshi community in Queens. 

The NYPD’s description of the circumstances that led to the 19-year-old’s fatal shooting have a key difference with the recollection provided by Rozario’s 17-year-old brother, Ushto. NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell, at a press conference, said that officers were attempting to take Rozario “into custody to get him help” when he began to approach them wielding a pair of scissors. The officers deployed Tasers in response before Rozario’s mother “came to the aid of her son in order to help him,” according to Chell, and “accidentally knocked the Tasers out of his body.” 

What happened next is where accounts differ. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Ushto Rozario said that his mother was still hugging and effectively restraining Rozario when the officers shot him. Ushto told the Times that Rozario “couldn’t really do anything” while his mother was holding him, and said that the shooting was unnecessary. Chell, in contrast, said that Rozario “came at” the officers again with scissors. “They had no choice but to defend themselves, discharging their firearms,” Chell said at the press conference. 

Ushto said that officers shot Rozario six times; the NYPD has not made any statements regarding the number of shots. 

“Everything I described to you is on a body-worn camera,” Chell said. 

As of Wednesday, the NYPD has not yet released the body camera footage.

Signs from a vigil for Win Rozario.

The New York Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigations announced on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into Rozario’s death.

“OSI assesses every incident reported to it where a police officer or a peace officer, including a corrections officer, may have caused the death of a person by an act or omission,” the Attorney General’s website stated. “If OSI’s assessment indicates an officer may have caused the death, OSI proceeds to conduct a full investigation of the incident.”

Rozario’s death has reignited calls from some elected officials and community organizations for a change in how the city responds to mental health emergencies. 

“Win Rozario made a call for help and it cost him his life,” Council Member Lynn Schulman wrote in a public statement. “Our system failed him.”

Schulman highlighted the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division Program (commonly called B-Heard) as one of multiple “life saving initiatives that enable mental health clinicans to respond to emergency mental health situations,” rather than police officers, arguing that the program is in need of additional funding in order to prevent fatal situations like Rozario’s. 

Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol, a community volunteer organization, released a statement which also included calls for additional B-HEARD funding. 

“We need a stronger partnership between law enforcement, mental health professionals, and community organizations,” COPCP’s statement read.

Lal Morich led one of two vigils in Diversity Plaza.

On Friday at 5 p.m., two competing vigils took place in Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza. 

The event was spearheaded by Lal Morich, an organization which describes itself on Instagram as “a Bangladeshi anti imperialist diaspora org in support of the New Democratic Movement in Bangladesh.” The group’s flier for the vigil spread on social media platforms.

Two groups clustered at the event. One, led by Lal Morich organizers, carried a hand-painted banner depicting Rozario’s image, a candle, and a pair of scissors behind the words “Say His Name: Win Rozario.” The other group’s members carried a printed banner for the Probashi Bengali Christian Association, a social organization serving Bengali Christians in the tri-state region. They held up posters of Rozario with the words “we want justice” and arrived with their own sound system.

“I left my country to have a better life here,” one speaker with the PBCA said to the crowd. “We all are very angry, very sad. We just want justice. We’re not here to criticize against anyone. Who knows? I don’t want… my family to be the next one, you don’t want your family to be the next one.”

Another speaker, Pastor James Roy of the United Bengali Lutheran Church, encouraged the crowd to pray for the Rozario family.  

PBCA at the vigil.

The PBCA’s cluster delivered speeches for approximately twenty minutes before Lal Morich activists began booing when one speaker described the NYPD, as an organization, as “brave.” 

“He got killed by the police! He got killed by the NYPD!” one organizer shouted at the PBCA. 

Both groups alternately chanted “we want justice” at each other. Lal Morich-led attendees then began drumming and leading new chants before delivering their own speeches. PCBA members continued speaking, the two groups battling for volume beside each other.  

“[The NYPD doesn’t] care about mental health. Win needed mental health help. He got brutalized. He got shot and killed by cowards,” one Lal Morich organizer said in a speech. “They do this to countless other teenagers, countless other elders, young people. We don’t stand for this. We cannot tell lies to our community, we cannot tell lies to the next generation that the NYPD are brave.”

The vigil continued for over an hour after that as the crowd mourned Rozario. 

Pastor Roy later told the Ledger that Rozario and his family were parishoners of his at the United Bengali Lutheran Church. 33-year-old Steve Roy, a member of the church, said the same.

“Since they’ve been here, they’ve been going to our church. I know their family, I know him, his brother, mother, everybody,” Roy said. 

“NYPD’s been doing this for decades,” Roy continued. “Killing people because they feel like it, or maybe they’re scared. I don’t know if a scissor warrants six bullets in somebody. This is not the first time — this happens everywhere, in every state…It comes from the infrastructure, right? If you have a corrupt infrastructure, this is the reality of your system.”

As for the tension between the groups at the Plaza, Roy said that the entire ordeal was “not the perfect response” to Rozario’s death. 

“There should’ve been a vigil that was orchestrated by the people who are intimately close with the family,” he said.  

A Lal Morich organizer declined to speak with the Ledger.

Attendees of both vigils mourned Rozario’s passing.

Reality House Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Expands Facilities

by Charlie Finnerty

Reality House, Inc., a substance abuse and addiction treatment center in Astoria, are expanding their residential in-patient facility on Astoria Blvd. from 30 beds to 60 and opened a new outpatient office. Specializing in reintegration, Reality House takes a community-based approach to help individuals secure housing, employment and other essential needs to rebuild their life after struggling with addiction. Executive Director Michael Cannaday said he sees reintegration as providing the support needed to ensure the longer recovery process is successful.

“Reintegration is the next step after rehab, it’s not an alternative,” Cannaday said. “Some people go to rehab and they have support in place; they have family, they have support.”

Reality House provides substance use treatment, mental health counseling, housing and employment services for patients, according to Clinical Program Director Roland Smith. While most patients come from Queens, Smith said Reality House serves individuals across the city and offers virtual services for those who want to stay connected to the program remotely. The residential in-patient care program is typically 6 months.

“Because it’s a reintegration program it’s more of a step down from maybe a more intensive residential program,” Smith said. “It’s a lot less restricted. They can be back in their communities, visit their families and work.”

Established in Harlem in 1967, Reality House initially focused on offering culturally-appropriate substance abuse, HIV treatment and prevention, mental health treatment and PTSD recovery for veterans. While veterans are still a central part of their work, Smith said that their services have expanded to be open to all New Yorkers that need support. Expanding their residential facilities will help to better serve those individuals since Reality House regularly has a waiting list of at least 30 people, according to Smith.

Roland Smith at Reality House. Credit: Charlie Finnerty.

Like many staff and counselors involved with addiction and recovery treatment, Cannaday and Smith were both drawn to community-based work after their own personal experiences and struggles.

“The last time I was incarcerated, there was a correction officer who used to walk by everyday and he used to give me the newspaper, he’d give me coffee,” Cannaday said. “When I left I asked him, ‘Why’d you alway give me that stuff?’ and he said ‘I heard you speak before. You’re a smart dude, you’re a decent looking guy. I was invested in you because you have the potential to live next door to me and I wanna know who’s going to live next door to me.’ That sticks with me like a ton of bricks to this day.”

Cannaday said he hopes reintegration facilities like Reality House can become examples for an alternative path for the city and state to support people dealing with addiction, mental illness and poverty that isn’t dependent on criminalization. Particularly after seeing the city’s response to the ongoing asylum seeker crisis, Cannaday said he feels the failures to support those struggling with substances or homelessness is a lack of political will rather than a lack of available resources.

Reality House staff receive a presentation from the national guard. Credit: Charlie Finnerty.

“It just gets so disparaging, when you see how much money we’re utilizing in the state and the city right now, because you know what it says? It says that we have the capability to do something, but we really choose not to do it. And that’s what makes people say, ‘Is this a setup?’” Cannaday said. “You say you want us to turn out better but you don’t want to invest in turning it out and you don’t even have the vision to see how far this impacts society. Most these people have mental health issues that are undiagnosed, especially people of color.”

Reality House can be reached at (212) 281-6004.

The Woodhaven Beat: Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Patrolman Arthur Kenney (left), killed while defending the residents of Woodhaven in March 1926, left behind a wife and a young daughter. Kenney will be honored in Woodhaven 98 years after his death, on Saturday, April 6th, when the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue is co-named in his honor. 98 years after his shooting, New York grieves the loss of another hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.

By Ed Wendell
A tragedy happened in Woodhaven nearly 100 years ago. A police officer from another part of Queens, temporarily assigned here to find one dangerous criminal, lost his life on the streets of Woodhaven, defending our community.
On Saturday, April 6th, ninety-eight years after Patrolman Arthur Kenney died from injuries sustained here in Woodhaven, he will be honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
The ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM and is the work of the Newtown Historical Society, Councilwoman Joann Ariola and the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society. A reception will be held afterwards at Neir’s Tavern.
The Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson have been honoring police officers killed in the line of duty for quite a while and this year they turned their attention to Woodhaven.
Later this year, School Safety Agent Orville Williams, who suffered a heart attack while breaking up a fight between students at Franklin K. Lane in 1999, and Sergeant Thomas F. J. O’Grady, who died due to injuries sustained while responding to a stabbing at Dexter Park in 1916, will also be honored with street co-namings in Woodhaven.
Back in 1926, residents of Woodhaven were living in fear due to a dangerous criminal who had been breaking into residents’ homes and stealing one of the most valuable things many of them owned, the relatively new item every household had to have, a radio.
Reports ranged from 50 to over 100 radios stolen from residents and homeowners began taking down their aerials so it would appear that they didn’t own one. The police flooded the area with plainclothes detectives and uniformed patrolmen to try and corral the criminal the press had dubbed “The Radio Burglar.”
At 2:30 in the morning of March 25th, 1926, police were summoned to a home on 78th Street by a housewife who saw a man acting suspiciously outside a neighbor’s home. When the detectives arrived at the scene, they noticed a flickering light inside the home and one of the officers walked down the alley and into the backyard to investigate.
Detective Frank Donnelly of Long Island City was near the back door when it opened and a man, identifying himself as the homeowner, asked “What’s the matter? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Before the Detective could answer, there was an explosion and he fell, a bullet lodged in his chest. The burglar had shot Donnelly without removing his hand from his jacket pocket.
In the chaos, and under the cover of darkness, the burglar escaped and emerged on 90th Avenue, with Patrolman Arthur Kenney and another officer in hot pursuit. The chase continued past 80th Street, with Kenney closing in, when the burglar disappeared into some bushes.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney followed the suspect’s trail into a dark backyard where he almost collided with a man claiming to be a fellow police officer, also in pursuit.
“I think the man you’re looking for jumped over that fence,” he told Kenney.
Keep in mind that the streets were flooded with plainclothes detectives from all over Queens and they didn’t all know each other. And in that brief momentary pause, the suspect fired his gun from his jacket pocket again, striking Kenney in the neck, before vanishing into the night.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney battled for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries. He was 28 years old and left behind a wife and a young daughter.
His killer, Paul Hilton the Radio Burglar, was captured a few weeks later at the Polo Grounds. He would be convicted and executed for his crimes within a year.

The shooting of 2 police officers in Woodhaven by the criminal dubbed “The Radio Burglar” as it appeared in the Leader-Observer in March 1926. Patrolman Arthur Kenney would lose his life due to injuries sustained that night. Kenney will be honored in Woodhaven 98 years after his death, on Saturday, April 6th, when the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue is co-named in his honor.

And now, nearly a hundred years later, as Woodhaven prepares to honor a hero lost in 1926, our hearts are broken by the murder of another young hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, lost this week.
Diller, just 31 years old, was killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.
One constant in life is that there will always be bad guys on the streets, and we will always need good police officers to combat them. And sadly, another constant is that police officers will be killed while doing that job.
Our prayers go out to the families of all fallen officers like Patrolman Arthur Kenney and Officer Jonathan Diller and to all the officers that continue to put their lives at risk for our safety, night after night, year after year.
They show bravery and courage that, frankly, is sometimes hard to comprehend. And so, honoring their memories while praying for their souls is the very least we can offer.

BQE Redevelopment Initiative Receives $5.6M Federal Grant to Bridge Neighborhood Divides

Examples of treatments that could be applied to BQE North and South. Credit: Department of Transportation

By MOHAMED FARGHALY

The U.S. Department of Transportation has greenlit a $5.6 million grant to propel forward a transformative redesign of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s (BQE) North and South corridors, Brooklyn elected officials revealed.  For nearly seven decades, the BQE, colloquially referred to as the “trench,” has severed neighborhoods like South Williamsburg and Sunset Park, fostering environmental hazards and health concerns due to noise, pollution, and heightened levels of respiratory illnesses.

This substantial grant, announced on March 12, aims to mend these urban scars, fostering community cohesion while mitigating the adverse environmental and economic impacts stemming from the daily influx of approximately 150,000 vehicles along the expressway.

Brooklyn representatives, alongside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition, a consortium comprising 17 community groups spanning northern to southern Brooklyn, have waged a sustained campaign to rectify the infrastructural rifts caused by the BQE’s inception, led by the influential urban planner Robert Moses. In a unified statement on the 12th, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lauded the decision, highlighting their concerted efforts to prioritize the “BQE Connects: Advancing the BQE North and South Corridor Vision” grant.

“This grant is the catalyst we need to finally put together a comprehensive plan to reimagine the entire BQE corridor and to address environmental justice issues that plague the northern and southern portions of the expressway,” the officials stated. “Our offices will work to ensure this is just the beginning of the federal government’s investment in the BQE with fairness and justice at the forefront.”

Echoing this sentiment, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition emphasized a clear vision to reshape the BQE into a space prioritizing the well-being of all affected communities, pledging to advocate for environmentally conscious decision-making in future infrastructure planning.  Notably, the grant’s approval follows Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement, heralding a significant step toward rectifying the historical disunity sewed by the BQE’s construction.

Governor Kathy Hochul and state DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez reaffirmed their dedication to collaborative efforts with the community and governmental stakeholders in this endeavor.  Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi lauded the city’s Federal Infrastructure Task Force for crafting exemplary grant applications, which also secured a $117 million federal grant to advance the QueensWay project, a park initiative situated on a disused corridor of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. However, a contentious $800 million NYC DOT grant proposal aimed at rebuilding the deteriorating BQE Central section, stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, was recently rebuffed. NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez expressed eagerness to explore various initiatives in consultation with Brooklyn residents along the BQE, envisioning possibilities like highway capping, street redesigns, and other enhancements to the corridor.

Notably, NYC DOT has orchestrated workshops to solicit ideas for enhancing areas adjacent to the BQE North and South, emphasizing community engagement in envisioning the future of these regions.  According to DOT’s release, proposed treatments for BQE North and South encompass full or partial highway capping, pedestrian infrastructure enhancements, intersection and ramp optimizations, and under-elevated improvements. At least two proposals, each addressing BQE North and South, will progress to partial design, laying the groundwork for further collaboration between DOT and NYSDOT to foster community reconnection initiatives across the corridor.

Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul aimed financing planning endeavors to enhance the quality of life for residents residing in proximity to the BQE, particularly those hailing from disadvantaged communities. This grant will facilitate the exploration of proposals to revitalize connectivity in the local transportation network, bolstering accessibility to employment, amenities, and green spaces while fortifying safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.

The comprehensive efforts outlined Mayor Adams’ overarching BQE Corridor Vision, underscoring a commitment to collaborate with communities along Brooklyn’s sole interstate highway, redressing longstanding divides and addressing critical infrastructure challenges within the city-owned BQE Central stretch between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street.

QueensWay Receives Major Boost with $117 Million Federal Grant

A $117 million federal grant injects new life into the ambitious QueensWay project, aiming to transform a blighted stretch of abandoned railway into a vibrant linear park and cultural greenway in Central Queens. Rendering of the QueensWay. Credit: Trust for Public Land

By MOHAMED FARGHALY

The ambitious QueensWay project, aimed at transforming a blighted 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens into a vibrant linear park and cultural greenway, received a significant boost with the announcement of a $117 million federal grant.

The grant, part of the “Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program – Neighborhood Access and Equity Program” issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, marks a watershed moment in the initiative’s progress.

Led by the Friends of the QueensWay (FQW) in collaboration with The Trust for Public Land, the project has garnered widespread support from various quarters since its inception in 2011. The conversion of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch into a public park has been championed by local residents, civic organizations, and advocacy groups, with the aim of revitalizing the area and enhancing the quality of life for residents of Queens and beyond.

“In communities like Queens, greenspace is limited, and transportation projects have historically disconnected diverse neighborhoods and discouraged walkability, and QueensWay stands to help change this,” U.S. Representative Grace Meng said.

Mayor Eric Adams hailed the federal funding as a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering community cohesion and investing in transformative infrastructure projects.

“Our infrastructure should be bringing communities together, not tearing them apart, and that’s why we aggressively pursued these Reconnecting Communities grants, to reshape our city in a way that unites us,” Mayor Adams said. “The next phase of the QueensWay will add more greenway miles, vibrant parks, and outdoor amenities to neighborhoods across Queens, and the BQE Corridor grant we won moves us closer to undoing some of the damage that Robert Moses caused and invests in beautiful, interconnected new public spaces.”

The Rockaway Beach Branch, abandoned since 1962, once extended from the LIRR main line at Rego Park through Ozone Park and across Jamaica Bay to the Rockaways. Its construction began in 1877, with services commencing in the 1880s and full completion in the 1910s and 1920s. However, recurring track fires near Jamaica Bay in the 1940s and 1950s made maintenance financially impractical for the LIRR.

In 1955 and 1956, significant changes occurred, New York City acquired part of the line for subway tracks which is now used by the A train, while the LIRR reduced operations due to low ridership. Service ceased entirely on June 8, 1962. Despite numerous attempts to reactivate the RBB, studies consistently deem it infeasible due to high costs, commuter disruptions, environmental impacts, and adverse effects on existing communities.

The $117 million grant will specifically support the Forest Park Pass project, an extension of the QueensWay into Forest Park. This phase of the project will encompass approximately 1.3 miles of greenway, new greenway bridges, recreational amenities, and connections to existing facilities in Forest Park, including Victory Field. Once completed, the QueensWay will comprise 47 acres of new park space and seven miles of greenway, spanning multiple neighborhoods including Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park.

“My thanks to President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg for establishing this transformational grant program and investing $123 million in federal grants to support our city’s growing infrastructure needs, as well as to all of our city, state, and federal partners who went to bat for New York City,” Mayor Adams said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a $35 million investment for the design and construction of Phase One of the QueensWay, known as the Metropolitan Hub (Met Hub). This initial phase, set to transform a vacant city-owned corridor in Forest Hills into a five-acre park with 0.7 miles of greenway, aims to provide residents with enhanced access to recreational amenities and safe transportation corridors.

The QueensWay project has drawn inspiration from successful precedents such as the High Line in Manhattan, the Atlanta BeltLine, and the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C. By repurposing underutilized rail corridors, these projects have not only created recreational opportunities but also stimulated economic and cultural development in their respective communities.

“This innovative project will create a new signature park in the heart of Queens, transforming an abandoned rail line into a vibrant greenspace where New Yorkers can enjoy all the health benefits of time outdoors,’ New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Sue Donoghue said. “With over a mile of new greenway paths for pedestrians and cyclists, the QueensWay will provide new connections between neighborhoods and give New Yorkers a safe way to get around and enjoy the fresh air.”

While the QueensWay project has garnered broad support, potential criticisms include concerns about environmental impact,  accessibility issues, long-term maintenance and funding and levels of community consultation.

With the latest infusion of federal funding, the QueensWay project is poised to enter its next phase of development, bringing to fruition a vision of a dynamic urban green space that promotes health, connectivity, and community engagement.

“Friends of the Queensway has been advocating for our communities and activation of this rails to trails project for more than a decade, and we commend federal and city leaders for collaborating on this extraordinary investment to activate quality park space and parks access,” Friends of the Queensway said.

For more information on the QueensWay project and upcoming developments, visit thequeensway.org.

Queens Chamber Hosts Annual St Patrick’s Day Luncheon

by Queens Ledger Staff  | news@queensledger.com

The Queens Chamber of Commerce welcomed leaders in business, politics and culture from across the borough to Antun’s in Queens Village for their annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon March 13. The event celebrated the contributions of Irish-Americans to Queens with food, entertainment, and recognition of honorees Jack Schlossberg and Mary Murphy.

President and CEO of the Queens Cham­ber of Commerce Tom Grech opened the event by honoring former NYC Council Member Paul Vallone, who passed away in January, before invocations from Bishop Robert Brennan and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik. The luncheon featured traditional Irish fare, performances by Fallon O’Brien of the Hagen Kavanagh School of Irish Dance, music by The Cobblers, and presentation of colors by the 2nd Battalion 25th Marines. The National Anthem was performed by Emily Kightlinger of St. Francis Prep.

Murphy is an award-winning journalist born and raised in Queens. She served as an anchor for PIX11 News for nearly 15 years and received multiple Emmy awards her reporting, spanning the opioid crisis, the September 11th terror attacks, the “Junior” case in the Bronx, the death of Princess Diana, Hurricane Sandy, the Black Sunday fire in 2005, and 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800. Murphy said the stories that stuck with her the most were missing people and cold cases in which families were still looking for justice.

“The main reason I lasted so long on TV is because every day, New Yorkers trusted me to tell their stories and for that I am in their debt,” Murphy said. “They gave me a career.”

Schlossberg, the only grandson of President John F. Kennedy, is an activist and attorney currently serving on President Biden’s reelection campaign as part of their voter protection team in battleground states. In his speech, Schlossberg spoke about his passion for paddleboarding. He can be found in the East River in the early hours of most mornings with a few friends and said it was an essential part of his routine as he prepared to pass the bar exam last year.

With a large portion of his speech focusing on the 2024 election and his belief in President Biden, Schlossberg looked to Queens as an example for what it means to bring the country together at a tense political moment.

“Queens is the most diverse place in our country,” Schlossberg said in his speech. “These days, people like to talk about how divided they think we are. They should come to Queens, because people out here seem to get along pretty well.”

Remembering Jimmy Young

By Ed Wendell

On March 28, 1994, Engine Company 24/Hook & Ladder 5 raced to the scene of a fire at 62 Watts Street in Manhattan. It is hard to comprehend the courage it takes to run into a burning building. All of our instincts scream at us to run away from danger, yet there are those that not only face it, they stand up to it. They run towards it.

They put their lives at risk to save and rescue people they do not know.

We lost three brave souls as a result of that fire. Captain John J. Drennan, Firefighter Christopher J. Siedenburg, and Firefighter James F. Young.

Jimmy had just turned 31 that January and was a true son of Woodhaven. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Thomas the Apostle, where he also went to school. He used to deliver the Leader/Observer and even wrote for this paper for a while, delivering recaps for the neighborhood softball league.

“I didn’t have one day’s problem with Jimmy, he was close to perfection,” his mother Virginia says. “He got along with everyone. He never smoked, never drank. I can’t tell you how many of my friends wanted him to marry their daughters.”

Jimmy Young was not only a delivery boy for the newspaper you are reading, but also wrote columns for the Leader on the Woodhaven Softball League while waiting to join the FDNY.

Virginia Young says that everything happens for a reason, that life’s tragedies must be part of a larger plan. “We almost lost Jimmy in a car accident, almost 10 years to the day before the fire,” she recalls.

And to illustrate this point, Virginia Young reminds us that this accident happened at Atlantic and 87th, the street that would one day bear her son’s name. “It was touch and go, but we prayed and he survived and he made a vow to live his life to the fullest,” she said. “And he did.”

Jimmy’s sister Maureen says that her brother touched so many lives, that she hears stories about him from people she never knew. “He must have had 500 close personal friends,” she said. “He knew everybody and everybody knew him.”

She reflects on the last time she saw Jimmy at a birthday party for their brother Michael. “He was leaving to take his girlfriend home, and we said ‘See you later’ to each other, and that was it,” she remembers. “The fire was a few days later.”

Shortly after a funeral during which the streets of Woodhaven were flooded with more than 10,000 firefighters, Maureen gave birth to her daughter.

“I really wish that he’d gotten to know my kids; his nieces and nephews,” she said. “I wish they had been able to know him.”

Residents and firefighters gather for a memorial to Firefighter Jimmy Young back in 2010.

“He was so generous and outgoing, he made friends with everybody,” she said. “He touched so many people’s lives and made an impact on them.”

She finds comfort in the words of the Facebook memorial page, especially every year as the anniversary approaches. “Time heals all wounds,” she says. “It gets easier, but it never gets easy.”

And now 30 years have gone by. That’s three entire decades that have passed. And the world is a much different world than the one Jimmy left behind. It’s a much different Woodhaven now than the one that paid such a loving tribute to Jimmy in 1994.

Many of the people that paid tribute to Jimmy Young back then have gone on to their reward themselves. And many of Jimmy’s young contemporaries from 1994 have grown old and gone grey. It seems hard to believe, but Jimmy himself would have turned 61 this year.

Back in March, 2010 we held a memorial for Jimmy here in Woodhaven and the late Maria Thomson read from the statement she made at City Hall the day that the bill renaming 87th Street in Jimmy Young’s honor was signed.

The family of Jimmy Young on the day that 87th Street was officially renamed Jimmy Young Place.

“Jimmy, you were taken too soon, and we miss you,” Thomson said. “But with your name proudly displayed on Jimmy Young Place, the legacy of your winning life and your heroic death will always live on.”

And so, if you weren’t familiar with the man behind the name on the sign that has hung over 87th Street these past 30 years, you now know a little more about him and the sacrifice he made.

And we hope you will join us in honoring his memory by remembering Jimmy Young not just for how he died, but for how he lived.

A History of the Forest Park Carousel, Part 2

By Ed Wendell

Last week, we looked at the life of Master Carousel Carver Daniel C. Muller and the establishment of a carousel in Forest Park in 1924. For 4 decades, residents of Woodhaven and other communities surrounding Forest Park enjoyed old-fashioned fun at our carousel.

But on December 10, 1966, tragedy struck when the Forest Park Carousel was destroyed by fire. It was reported at 8:40 p.m. and despite a quick and massive response from the Fire Department, it was not brought under control until 9:28 p.m. And in those 48 minutes, a great deal of rare and exquisite carousel artistry was lost forever.

No cause of the fire was ever determined though vandalism was suspected. The carousel was insured for $50,000 but it was estimated that it would cost a quarter of a million dollars to replace.

Over the next few years, residents and elected officials called for the city to replace the carousel but the news was all bad and it looked like something unique and special was lost forever.

However, in January 1972 they received the miracle they were hoping for. When it was announced that the Lakeview Amusement Park in Dracut, Massachusetts was closing permanently, the City of New York moved quickly, purchasing the carousel for just $30,000.

And it wasn’t just any old carousel. Amazingly, the carousel was a Muller. A few figures were missing so a few other figures (two by Dentzel and one by Charles Carmel, another notable carousel artist of the same era) were purchased and added to the menagerie.

One of the surviving horses from the original Forest Park Carousel, which was destroyed by fire on December 10, 1966. This horse, the work of Master Carousel Carver Daniel C. Muller, can be seen in the lobby of Oak Ridge, the offices of the Forest Park Administration.

And so, the Forest Park Carousel was back, but the next few years were a bumpy ride. In 1984, the Forest Park Carousel closed indefinitely for repairs.

Four years later, the Queens-based Fabricon Design Group, led by carousel designer Marvin Sylvor restored the Forest Park Carousel, repairing and repainting figures and replacing missing pieces. Once again, the Forest Park Carousel was running and in 2004 it was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places.

But within a few years the city and the vendor chosen to maintain the carousel parted ways. When residents visited the park in Spring 2009, they found the Forest Park Carousel fenced in, padlocked and surrounded with barbed wire.

Concerned that the city would sell off this priceless gem, the community (led by the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association) brought their concerns to the attention of local elected officials and the press. And then another miracle happened. After a 3 year wait, New York Carousel was chosen to reopen and operate the Forest Park Carousel, which it did, to great fanfare, in 2012.

And on June 19, 2013, the Forest Park Carousel was officially designated as a New York City Landmark. The community came out to celebrate and support the carousel and parents and grandparents (who were lifted onto the ride as children) lifted their children and grandchildren onto the ride. The community was comforted by the fact that, as a landmark, the Forest Park Carousel would be protected for many generations to come.
And so, the Forest Park Carousel was open and landmarked, but it was still a bumpy ride. Literally. Whenever the carousel reached full speed, it tended to sway and you could hear the gears grinding.

The caretakers of the carousel knew that an overhaul was long overdue. At the end of the 2014 season, the Forest Park Carousel was taken apart by employees of the carousel and a group from Carousels & Carvings, carousel specialists from Marion, Ohio. Many pieces that needed to be replaced were driven 555 miles to Carousels & Carvings’ headquarters where they were rebuilt over the winter.

49 horses (36 jumpers and 13 standers on the outer row), 3 menagerie figures (a Tiger, a Lion and a Deer) and two Chariots were carefully removed and stored away over the winter. Every single thing was stripped off of the carousel and the center stack was lifted and suspended all winter by an indoor crane to enable the team to remove the center bearings. The entire process took nearly three weeks.

In the spring, the team reunited and began the complicated process of putting a 100+ year old carousel back together. And when it was all back together, the city’s safety chief came out to inspect the ride and after hearing the quiet whoosh as it ran at full speed, he smiled and said “That sounds like a smooth ride.”

On Saturday, June 15th the road to this beloved landmark will be co-named “Forest Park Carousel Way” and the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society will be sponsoring free rides for all as we celebrate a full century of the Forest Park Carousel here in Woodhaven!

Late Woodhaven community activist Maria Thomson, who fought for nearly 3 decades to get the carousel landmarked, on June 19, 2013, the day that the Forest Park Carousel was officially designated as a New York City Landmark.

NYPD Posthumously Promotes Krystyna Naprawa

By Britney Trachtenberg | news@queensledger.com

Courtesy of @NYPDChiefPatrol on X/Twitter.

On Thurs., Feb. 22, during a ceremony at One Police Plaza, Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban promoted School Crossing Guard Krystyna Naprawa to the title of Community Coordinator after her death.

Naprawa worked as an NYPD School Crossing Guard. On Oct. 20, 2023, Naprawa helped pedestrians cross the intersection at Woodhaven Blvd and Atlantic Ave. during her morning shift. Seconds after, a turning sanitation truck hit and killed her.

Naprawa’s family, friends, and coworkers attended the ceremony, during which NYPD executives announced the distribution of new safety equipment, increased training, and updated policies for the police department’s crossing guards.

Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban described Naprawa as someone who “cherished her job as an NYPD School Crossing Guard” and “loved the familiar faces she saw each day.”

NYPD School Crossing Guards stand at many of NYC’s most populated intersections and seek to protect all pedestrians, specifically, students walking to and from school. NYPD hopes to improve safety standards through an edited training program supervised by the Traffic Enforcement Training Unit. The course now takes seven days instead of six and contains a field-training element. Every School Crossing Guard must take an annual refresher course.

From the NYPD, School Crossing Guards reportedly will receive new whistles, vests, and “stop” paddles. The NYPD seeks to give each patrol borough twelve “stop” signs with detachable poles for use at truck routes and bigger intersections.

At the Woodhaven Blvd and Atlantic Ave intersection, the NYPD wants to station multiple crossing guards.

Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37, thanked Police Commissioner Caban “for this posthumous recognition of a beloved member of the DC 37 family.” Garrido said, “The investment in additional resources for the safety of our School Crossing Guards, and the increased coverage at Krystyna’s former intersection, will ensure that the impact she made – on her colleagues and on our community – will endure for many years to come.”

The city has already made changes to the Woodhaven Blvd and Atlantic Ave intersection. The city’s Department of Transportation recently installed a right-turn signal in the lane where the truck was turning from when the driver hit Naprawa, as reported on by the Queens Ledger earlier this month. The turning signal will not have a green light. Instead, it will have a red light that will turn amber, which tells cars and trucks to drive slowly and carefully.

Queens Community Orgs Host Town Hall on Tenant Right to Counsel Bill

by Charlie Finnerty | cfinnerty@queensledger.com

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Woodside on the Move, the Right to Counsel Coalition, Chhaya, Catholic Migration Services and other Queens-based community organizations hosted a tenant organizing town hall Feb. 21 at St. Sebastian Parish Center in Woodside. Organizers spoke to tenants about Right to Counsel for ALL (A1493 / S2721), a bill proposed in the state legislature that would establish a right to legal services in eviction proceedings for all tenants across New York.

Attendees received presentations on what a right to counsel would mean for tenants and demonstrated how to provide feedback and testimony to elected officials. The bill is currently awaiting a new sponsor in the state assembly before it can move forward. District 30 Assemblymember Steven Raga and District 37 Assemblymember Juan Ardila also spoke at the event.

“The purpose and the goal of this event was really to just relaunch Right to Counsel’s legislative and budget campaign. That’s why we had the teach-in, but also it had the emphasis on statewide right to counsel and informing tenants about what that entails and providing testimony to support it and galvanize it,” Frances Hamed, policy & advocacy coordinator for Woodside on the Move, said.

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Tenants at the event spoke about their own experiences with housing court where many felt the judges were biased in favor of landlords who had access to legal representation.

“He has rights who dare to defend them,” one tenant said, speaking into a microphone at the front of the room. “We have to change how housing court judges are put on the bench in New York City. Housing court judges should be elected, not selected. Let them pay for a campaign and be elected.”

Another tenant spoke about how economic suppression of Latino communities adds an additional obstacle to housing burdens. His testimony was translated into English by event organizers.

“I’ve been in housing court fighting my case,” the tenant said. “It has been very traumatizing as a Latino person that we are people that do not have economic power.”

Yhamir Chabur, a housing and tenant organizer for Woodside on the Move, said he is inspired by advocacy and community organizing groups across Queens working together.

“Queens is getting closer to unifying itself,” Chabur said. “We have to keep the momentum going, because all of us experience this. It’s not fair that you have the landlord class and they’re easily able to have access to lawyers to represent them. This system supposedly says that it’s democratic because it’s capitalist, but yet it favors those that have access to capital.”

Raga, who was formerly executive director for Woodside on the Move before being elected to the State Assembly, spoke in support of the bill at the event, saying he feels hopeful there is support for it in Albany.

“It’s a broad coalition of folks that know that this is a moral issue,” Raga said. “Whether or not you have constituents in your district that are fighting for it, no matter what you should know that this is about right or wrong.”

Assembly Member Steven Raga speaks at the town hall. Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Hamed said Woodside on the Move and their partner organizations fighting for Right to Counsel are focused on gaining more support for the bill in the state legislature.

“In terms of next steps, I feel it’s very important to garner the support of all the legislators who haven’t signed on,” Hamed said. “I feel confident that Right to Counsel will be something that we see implemented statewide, given all the testimonies we heard from the electeds and the tenants.”

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