By Naeisha Rose
With construction underway at a homeless shelter in Ozone Park, elected officials rallied last Friday with dozens of members from the local community across the street from the construction site after a second homeless individual allegedly attacked a person in the area.
The Oct. 12 rally, sponsored by state Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and the Ozone Park Residents Block Association — headed by President Sam Esposito — was led by Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services.
Ozone Park resident Shamim Ahmed, 45, the victim of the latest attack, spoke about the incident that left him with bruises circling his eye.
“Monday at midnight, I was doing laundry with my wife,” said Ahmed, who added that the suspect, Paul Gaspard, 39, of Jamaica, allegedly started to curse him out.
“’Why do you do this?’” Ahmed said he asked Gaspard.
Ahmed’s said Gaspard hit him in the face and as he tried to defend himself, his wife tried to break up the fight, only to get pushed by the defendant.
“I said that I was going to call the police,” said Ahmed, noting that the suspect also spit on him. “His behavior is no good.”
The Oct. 8 incident allegedly occurred at approximately 11:29 p.m. at the Superclean Laundromat, located at 74-02 101st Ave., according to a police report. The attack left Ahmed with minor facial injuries. The suspect also had a small amount of marijuana on him, according to police.
After the attack, Ahmed is opposed to the idea of the homeless shelter —located at 81-15 101st Ave., seven blocks away from where he was assaulted — that is being built for 113 mentally ill individuals.
“I don’t think our community is sufficient enough to support this,” said Ahmed. “It’s near schools and families… it should be moved some other place for the betterment of the community.”
Esposito and Misba Abdin, the founder of BADCYS, are not opposed to having a shelter within the community, but believe it should be one that fits the character of the area and that mentally ill folks should have a facility that better supports their needs.
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) agreed.
“We never, ever said no as a community to no homeless people here,” said Addabbo. “We will do our share… give us women, domestic violence victims, give us seniors, or give us veterans and we would accept them and welcome them into our community. With the mentally ill, they need a facility where they get the help that they need.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose